Mayflower Theatre, Southampton – until 27 May 2017. Reviewed by Sharon MacDonald-Armitage
Funny Girl is a musical immediately associated and defined by Barbra Streisand and her portrayal of Fanny Brice, and for anyone to take on this iconic role they are instantly set a challenge. Sheridan Smith has taken up the gauntlet of this challenge and does a good job.
Funny Girl tells the tale of Fanny Brice a young rather unattractive girl whose dream is to make it big on a Broadway stage. What she lacks in beauty she more than makes up for in talent, a skill that drives her ambitions from a Vaudeville stage to her big break at Ziegfeld Follies. However, things become complicated when she meets the smooth and charming Nick Arnstein (Darius Campbell), who sweeps Fanny off her feet in a whirlwind of romance and marriage. But Arnstein is a gambler and shady property entrepreneur, a combination that does not bode well for a happy future.
Vocally there are moments when Smith struggles with some of the higher notes and there are times when notes aren’t held quite as long as one would expect. One of the more recognisable songs, “People” seems a little strained, however what she lacks in vocals she more than makes up for in comic timing and audience engagement. You have to give it to Smith she is able to connect with an audience; a nod, a wink, a side wards glance all have the audience laughing. “Rat-tat-ta-tat” in Act 2 shows Smith doing what she does best and she milks the applause for all it’s worth. The money number in this show is “Don’t Rain on my Parade” a song that is very difficult not to associate with Streisand. Smith’s interpretation went down well with the audience.
There is a clear connection between Darius and Smith and their rendition of “You Are Woman, I Am Man” has the audience laughing with joy. In fact there was much laughter throughout the show.
Joshua Lay presents a wonderful Eddie Ryan, Fanny’s long suffering friend who has loved her for years. He taps his way into the hearts of the audience even though it is Brice he has true affection for.
The rest of the cast should not be overlooked in this show. From Mrs Brice (Rachel Izen) and her two elderly neighbours, Mrs Strakosh (Myra Sands) and Mrs Meeker (Zoe Ann Bown), who have some wonderful moments when gambling, to the ensemble that provide the backdrop of the realities of showbiz.
Funny Girl is a somewhat emotional journey for both the audience and Smith. This is definitely one to go and see.