Review: Funny Girl at the Savoy Theatre, London

© Marc Brenner

Following a stellar run at London’s Menier Chocolate Factory, BAFTA and Olivier-winning actress Sheridan Smith shows audiences just why she’s one of the finest talents in the country.

The first time we’ve had show back in the West End since the iconic Barbra Streisand production back in 1966, all eyes were on London to ensure the rain stays far clear from the parade. Weather check? No rain.

With a noticeable extension for the show at the Savoy, the addition of new scenic pieces, a large ensemble cast and bigger company numbers gives that extra sprinkling of magic on this glorious set. After all, with a score as rich iconic numbers as this, there’s no place for understated performances. Thankfully, understated is most certainly a word that cannot be used here.

Marking the rise of Fanny Brice, the show tackles her fight to stardom, love of Nick Arnstein, and eventual split. And with self-worth of affection at the helm, Funny Girl finds itself landing straight into your heart come curtain call. But why?

Well, that answer is a simple one. One lady: Sheridan Smith. Under Michael Mayer’s direction, Smith soars from her entrance to exit. With her impeccable comedic timing, her cheeky grin and delightful voice presents a rather different Fanny Brice. Of course, noticeable similarities come from Babs in the role, yet Smith fights hard to kick them aside; and she succeeds. With regular smiles and laughter, the sense of determination to get this audience to like her is clear — and by heck it works. Her deliverance of People a difficult and emotional watch — much to her credit. And with a standing ovation come close some could only ever dream of, Sheridan Smith is outstanding throughout.

Oh, and Don’t Rain on My Parade? She NAILS it! But we will leave that rather special moment for you to experience live.

Darius Campbell joins Smith as lover Nicky Arnstein. A surprising addition, his enjoyable voice and rather firm Nicky matches Smith well throughout. Somewhat protective of his new lover, it was great to see him battle against his characters bad habits and love of Brice; hilarious height difference and all.

Marilyn Cutts’ Mrs Brice is a noticeable joy, alongside Valda Aviks and Gay Soper as Mrs O’Malley and Mrs Strakosh. And with Joel Montague as Eddie, the endless roll of talent on the stage seems almost too much. Montague of wonderful vocal ability, too.

Jule Styne’s music, Bob Merrill’s lyrics and Isobel Lennart’s book are as humorous, touching and enjoyable as ever before. Lynne Page’s choreography is brave in its want to stick with tradition. Regularly adding light to the piece, there’s a sense of charm that’s painfully addictive throughout; seem most noticeably in this gorgeous ensemble of dancers.

Bringing Funny Girl back home to the West End was never going to be an easy task, yet Michael Mayer’s production perfects the art of finding new life in a piece of theatrical gold. With heart, heartache and one killer leading lady, this is a production of Funny Girl you’ll be talking about for years!

GT gives Funny Girl — 5/5


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