THEATRE PREVIEW REVIEW: Funny Girl starring Sheridan Smith

WORTH A LOOK?: *****

WHERE: Menier Chocolate Factory

WHEN: 20/11, press night 2/12, runs to 5/3/16. Transfers to Savoy Theatre and runs 9/4/16 – 2/7/16.

In July we declared that Imelda Staunton was giving the best performance in the West End in Gypsy.

It’s hard to imagine the show not mopping up in awards season but at its second preview at the Menier Chocolate Factory before transfer next year to the Savoy, where Gypsy closes next week, we wondered whether Funny Girl and its star Sheridan Smith had outdone it.

Funny Girl is the story of Fanny Brice (Smith), her awkwardness, rise to fame and romance with gambler Nick Arnstein (Darius Campbell, much more suave and convincing than we thought he might be).

It’s half a century since Funny Girl was last seen on a British stage and it is so associated with Barbra Streisand, who won an Oscar for it, that it would always be a brave actress who would tackle a show with such a devoted following featuring hits including People, I’m The Greatest Star and Don’t Rain On My Parade.

Director Michael Meyer (whose credits include the Tony award-winning Hedwig and the Angry Inch) gives us a heroine who is unconventionally beautiful but no mere Streisand impersonation. Smith is at her best when interacting with the front row, pointing a rifle at them during a musical skit while pulling a cheeky wink or making light of Arnstein’s attempted sofa seduction during You Are Woman, I Am Man.

Double Olivier award-winning Smith has the audience in the palm of her hand through the tear-jerking finale and impromptu rendition of People as the show closes after a standing ovation. Don’t miss London’s stand-out performance in its most entertaining show.

  • The entire Menier run is sold out. How to buy tickets for Funny Girl at the Savoy. Picture: Marc Brenner via Facebook courtesy Funny Girl.
  • Enjoyed this review? Follow its author on Twitter @NeilDurham. Email neildurham3@gmail.com

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