The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

Review: Funny Girl

Standing ovations all round for Sheridan Smith as she is truly sensational as Fanny Brice

By

The much anticipated musical Funny Girl is currently touring the UK after its critically acclaimed run at The Savoy Theatre in London. The tour of Funny Girl starts at the Palace Theatre, Manchester.

The musical tells the mostly true story of Broadway star Fanny Brice. Brice was renowned for her exceptional comic skills and singing ability. Fanny Brice was famously portrayed by Barbara Streisand in the 1968 film of the same title.

The story begins with a successful Fanny Brice in her dressing room on the open night of her new show with Ziegfeld Follies. As Brice waits for call time she begins to reminisce about her life. The musical thus revolves around how Brice got her big break and bagged a husband on her way up.

Fanny Brice is a true performer. This was perfectly illustrated by a tilted proscenium arch set frame, which offered a mirrored image of the Palace Theatre audience seating. The staging affirmed how Brice truly lives on stage, always ready to perform for an audience. Naturally this role required a born performer to successfully illustrate the exceptional talent which was Fanny Brice. Sheridan Smith was the actress to rise to the occasion.

Sheridan Smith has obvious funny bone and was able to encompass Brice’s humour effortlessly having the audience howling with laughter throughout. One of the funniest scenes had to be when Brice and her love interest, Nicky Arnstein, played by Chris Peluso sang ‘You are Woman’.  Even the two actors seemed unable to stop from laughing at the hilarity that was being performed on stage. Smith quickly established her singing prowess with a rendition of ‘I’m the Greatest Star’ and the first act ended on an epic rendition of ‘Don’t Rain on My Parade’. Smith and Brice seem to be one and the same both destined to be one of the greatest stage actresses of their generation.

The focal point of the entire musical is Fanny Brice, the heroine everyone is rooting for to succeed. Along the way she meets her love interest Nicky, whose gambling addiction and feelings of emasculation leads to heartbreak for the pair. Brice’s strong community base in Brooklyn is warmly portrayed by her mother (Rachel Izen), Mrs Meeker (Zoë Ann Bown), and Mrs Strakosh (Myra Sands). Her loyal friend Eddie Ryan (Joshua Lay) showcasing some of the most impressive choreography including flips. The entire ensemble is outstanding but the show really is stolen by Sheridan Smith.

The staging is simple with the cast bringing on different pieces of set and props to illustrate the changing locations. This adds to the fast pace nature of the play, as the audience are hurtled through the life of Fanny Brice as she becomes a rising vaudeville star. However, the show isn’t all laughs. Smith transitions from comedy gold to raw emotion in a matter of minutes. The musical number of ‘People’ left many audience members weeping along with Smith who sheds tears on stage. The silly faces and Broadway smiles covers the emotional complexity that Smith is somehow able to demonstrate whilst always keeping up the joker façade Fanny Brice is famous for. Behind the ready smile there was glistening in Smiths eyes. The show really is a master class is acting.

The second half of the musical is far more troubling then the first. The reprised rendition of ‘Don’t Rain on My Parade’ left no doubt that Fanny Brice was made of steel. Funny Girl has all the ingredients for a roaring success; emotions galore, catchy songs and a sensational leading lady. This really is Sheridan Smith at her best. Funny Girl obtained a thoroughly deserved standing ovation. It truly is astonishing.