With a reputation as THE must see musical of the past few years and the huge amount of praise heaped upon Sheriden Smith’s performance there is a feeling that no matter what you think of this show it’s definitely not the done thing to Rain on its Parade writes dluxe’s Jonathan Fraser.
Following a hugely successful run in London, Funny Girl has followed in the path of leading lady Fanny Brice herself by taking itself off on an equally successful tour stopping off at Birmingham’s Hippodrome until the 13 May, Nottingham’s Theatre Royal from the 12-17 June and Wolverhampton Grand Theatre from the 24-29 July- tickets are like gold dust and anticipation is high so should you believe the hype?
In short. Yes. Sheriden Smith as Vaudeville star Fanny Brice puts everything into an emotional rollercoaster of a performance which goes from hi jinx japery to racking sobs within seconds. It really is like watching a masterclass in musical performance by someone at the top of their game.
Darius Campbell (formerly known as Darius Danesh Pop Idol fans) plays Fanny’s philandering love interest , Nick Arnstein, with tenderness and sincerity despite an accent that slipped somewhere between Joey from Friends and Chris Noth’s Big from Sex and the City.
Michael Pavelka’s set, with prominently skewed proscenium arch, acts as an appropriate allegory for the battle between Brice’s public and private personas; always on stage, always an act. When filled with Lynn Page’s choreographed show girls the feeling is claustrophobic, Brice centre stage surrounded and dwarfed by the situations that she finds herself in.
There is so much to love in Michael Mayer’s production, that many of the actual show’s shortcomings can be overlooked. The narrative arc of the first half is succinct and easy to follow despite taking some huge liberties with the real story of Fanny Brice and Nick Arnstein (such as her first marriage and his first time in jail). There are some big songs to focus on in Act 1 though, such as the heartfelt People and Smith’s feisty interpretation of Don’t Rain on my Parade which almost says come on, just try it! Act 2 however is a jumble; time passes at an undiscernible rate and a love story ends without anyone really knowing why. It’s not helped that there’s no big number in to help the audience through and that seems a slightly flat way to end a show full of stellar performances. Thank heavens then for Smith holding on to that last note and reminding the audience of what a treat they’ve just had.
Funny Girl is at Birmingham Hippodrome until the 13 May, Nottingham’s Theatre Royal from the 12-17 June and Wolverhampton Grand Theatre from the 24-29 July. To book tickets visit funnygirlthemusical.co.uk