Sunday, 1 May 2016

'Funny Girl' at The Savoy Theatre

Last week we went to see Sheridan Smith in 'Funny Girl' at the Savoy Theatre. This is the production that sold out almost instantly when it was put on at the Menier Chocolate Factory last year, so it was a must see. I'm a fan of Sheridan's stage work and saw her in 'Little Shop of Horrors' (in which I saw her cry on cue a mere few feet away), 'Legally Blonde' (at the Savoy) and 'Flare Path' so I was looking forward to seeing her in this show.

'Funny Girl' tells the story of Fanny Brice, a poor Brooklyn girl made good who goes on to be a huge Broadway star in the early 1900s, starring in the Ziegfeld Follies and a host of other shows. It opens in 1927 before we look back at Fanny's story. We see Fanny's first auditions and her mouthy way of getting what she wants with her quick wit and her singing and dancing.  She meets her 'first top hat' after a show and he becomes the great love of her life, meeting in different places as he travels round gambling and she headlines shows. They marry and have a baby daughter but when he needs money for a new money she gives it to him and the resentment starts. He goes to prison for fraud and the play opens with Fanny waiting for his return in her dressing room before we see the story of her life and ends when we see him return to the theatre for her latest first night of a new show.

Sheridan Smith plays Fanny Brice, our heroine and is on stage for much of the performance in what must be an exhausting role, rarely still and almost always talking or singing. The original version of 'Funny Girl' was written for Barbra Streisand so there's a lot in here that harks back to Barbra's delivery of machine-gum one liners and asides but Sheridan makes it her own. The husband is played by Darius Campbell, unfeasibly tall standing next to Sheridan but I didn't feel any great chemistry between them, despite having played these roles last year at the Choccy Factory. He always seemed a bit distant, a bit stand-offish. Maybe because it's really her story and her show?

I liked Joel Montague as Fanny's friend and sort of dance coach Eddie, clearly carrying a torch for her and not hiding it very well from first meeting until the end of the play. He gave quite a subtle and touching performance but it's never going to happen Eddie. I also liked Fanny's mum played by Marilyn Cutts and you can see where Fanny got her will to succeed from. It was nice to see so many 'old' people on the stage playing the previous generation - I haven't seen that many 'older' characters on the same stage in a long time. The rest of the cast were good too and I liked the long, willowy dancers.

This is really Sheridan's show, of course, playing it big as Fanny Brice and belting out some big songs. She really made me sit up and listen with her tender version of 'People' and again for the big 'Don't Rain On My Parade'. Apparently there's going to be a cast recording so it'll be good to hear those songs again. Well done Sheridan, another memorable show!

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