REVIEW: FUNNY GIRL (Menier Chocolate Factory)


Funny Girl - Sheridan Smith (Fanny Brice) - picture by Marc BrennerFunny Girl is the 1964 Broadway musical by Jule Styne, most commonly known for the 1968 film starring Barbra Streisand as Fanny Brice. The show has the famous opening line “Hello gorgeous” which has become a phrase associated with the show throughout the years.

In situations like these, where you have a huge star like Sheridan Smith, who sold out the entire run in 90 minutes (although there are a few tickets still available), audiences of adoring fans flock to see the performances. Newspaper critics tend to get overly excited and caught up in the buzz and build up to how amazing everyone thinks the show will be. But I like to separate myself from this and ignore the fact a huge star is standing in front of me on stage and judge them purely on their merits in this particular performance.

Funny Girl tells the true story of Broadway comedienne Fanny Brice, her rise to fame and her relationship with husband Nick Arnstein. The concept of a woman being the main breadwinner in a relationship is still something we don’t see portrayed every day but back in the 1960’s when this show was written, I imagine it was quite the topic of conversation!

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Musically, Funny Girl has some iconic numbers. “People” and “Don’t Rain On My Parade” being the two most obvious ones. There is a nice mix between big belters, dance numbers and ballads to keep things interesting during the show. The set was cleverly designed with two conveyer belts across the stage to give the impression of people walking and the backdrop of an auditorium was very realistic.

So how was Sheridan Smith? After all the build up to her performance I am delighted to say she smashed it and was incredible. Her singing (especially in I’m The Grestest Star), dancing (in Cornet Man) and acting are all top notch and she keeps the audience mesmerised for almost three hours. Sheridan’s comedic performance was consistently good but most memorable in You Are Woman, I Am Man. Darius Campbell was also great as husband Nick Arnstein. Tall, dark and handsome and with a pretty decent voice to go along with it. Joel Montague glided across the stage in huge tap numbers and was nicely cast as Eddie. Matthew Croke and Luke Featherston stole the show as the best ensemble members, backflipping and dancing across the stage whilst Marilyn Cutts gave a nice performance as Fanny’s mother Rose.

I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with this show for the West End transfer to the Savoy Theatre in April 2016. This full scale musical was quite compacted onto the Menier Chocolate Factory stage and so it will be nice that it will get an opportunity to spread itself out for a bigger run in town.

Fanny Brice is back in London and so see it if you can. There is something in this show to please just about anyone and Sheridan Smith gives a career defining performance. One not to miss!

Reviewed by West End Wilma
Photos: Marc Brenner