There are few musicals more iconic than Funny Girl, and with the West End transfer of the sold out run at Menier Chocolate Factory having just opened at The Savoy Theatre, it shows that Fanny Brice and her story is still as engaging as ever.
Olivier Award winner Sheridan Smith returns to the role of Fanny Brice, and her performance on the larger Savoy stage shows that she truly is the greatest star. Director Michael Mayer has made very few changes to the staging that was used during the Menier run, but the changes that have been made have made the West End transfer even stronger.
Mayer has brought the Menier cast to the Savoy with the addition of extra dancers due to the increased stage space, and the Savoy production benefits from having a cast that is comfortable with each other and the source material. Smith is, as always, a stand out performer; the emotional journey she takes the audience on as Brice fights from obscurity to stardom is a roller coaster filled with laughs and tears. Her performance of the classic “Don’t Rain on My Parade” is just a vocal powerhouse, and I would question whether any other performer right now could beat Smith’s performance of the iconic number.
The chemistry between Fanny Brice and Nick Arnstein (played by Darius Campbell) is palpable in this new production, and Campbell’s vocals are even stronger than at the Menier, especially in “Temporary Arrangement,” and his performance with Smith in “You Are Woman, I Am Man” is just fantastically warm and funny. Smith is well known for her comedic timing however Campbell surprised me in that his timing and delivery of lines is brilliant.
The entire cast gets the chance to shine, with Joel Montague shining through as the long suffering Eddie Ryan. I absolutely loved the scenes between Mrs Meekers (played by Valda Aviks), Mrs Brice (played by Marilyn Cutts), and Mrs Strakosh (played by Gay Soper). Although this is definitely a new performance and Smith plays Brice without feeling the need to become a carbon copy of Barbra Streisand, there is a lovely nod to the original West End production with Maurice Lane who plays Mr Keeney. Lane was a dancer in the original Streisand production of the show and it shows how strong the production Mayer and his team have constructed is that Lane was willing to return to a new production of the show.
One minor issue with this Savoy production is the volume of the orchestra and at times it appears that the microphones seem to drop out and although this does not affect Smith or Campbell some of the other performers seem to get lost at times in the show. The production still has a number of months to run so here’s hoping the sound team get this small issue resolved.
Funny Girl is playing at the Savoy Theatre until October 8, and tickets can be purchased in person at the theatre or through their website.