Thursday, 21 April 2016

Review: Sheridan Smith stars in Funny Girl at the Savoy Theatre

Funny Girl 
Savoy Theatre
Reviewed on Wednesday 20th April 2016

Following its sold out run at the Menier Chocolate Factory, Funny Girl has transferred to the West End where it hasn't been seen since Barbra Streisand starred as Fanny Brice in 1966. Juxtaposing Fanny Brice's rise to stardom with the downfall of her marriage to Nick Arnstein, Funny Girl is a heartfelt musical about fame, love and what really goes on behind closed doors.

I thought Michael Mayer's production was sensational at the Chocolate Factory, but it's even better at the Savoy. Both the cast and set have been expanded to give the show more glitz and glamour. The performance numbers fill the stage gloriously (there's some brilliant choreography by Lynne Page) whilst the more sincere scenes still feel intimate and detailed. Jule Styne's music is more charming than ever. 

I cannot find the words to express how phenomenal Sheridan Smith is as Fanny Brice. Smith nails every scene; she comes into her own during the song and dance numbers, showcasing impeccable comic timing and leading the cast with tremendous spirit. Her portrayal of offstage Fanny is equally as masterful; Smith can play things up with a twinkle in her eye without losing the character's sincerity. She performs the heartfelt moments with genuine emotion, it really is quite moving.

Vocally Smith has mastered the score - she knows when to hold back and when to throw in some growls and belt her heart out. Smith's rendition of 'People' stopped me in my tracks. Fighting back tears, Smith did more than act through song - she lived every lyric and performed from deep within. She has unique connection with Bob Merrill's lyrics and Isobel Lennart's book. Smith's rendition of the show's big number 'Don't Rain On My Parade' is packed with fight - she gave her absolute all and aced the all-important final note at the end of the first act and again at the end of the show.

There are some fantastic performances from the supporting cast; Marilyn Cutts is a delight as Mrs Brice, playing opposite the wonderful Valda Aviks and Gay Soper as Mrs O’Malley and Mrs Strakosh. Joel Montague is a killer triple threat as Eddie. Darius Campbell is superb as Nicky Arnstein; Campbell has a strong voice and portrays Nicky convincingly. He shares fantastic chemistry with Smith - their height difference is hilarious.

Smith is clearly at home at the Savoy, where she previously starred in Legally Blonde - it's such a treat to see her back in the West End where she belongs. Even in a big theatre you can still feel the unbreakable connection she has with the entire audience. At press nights polite and gradual standing ovations are the norm, but when Smith walked onstage to take her bow at the end of the evening, the entire audience on all three levels of the theatre shot to their feet immediately without hesitation. 

In years to come, those of us lucky enough to have seen Sheridan Smith in Funny Girl will still be raving about her performance. 

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Funny Girl runs at the Savoy Theatre until 8th October 2016.
Please visit for info and tickets.

Photo Credit: Johan Persson

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