I’m a lover of high stakes – and as the original cast recording of Funny Girl was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2004 – I’m sure the revival cast, led by Sheridan Smith, worked tirelessly to create this original London cast recording of Funny Girl. The sell-out musical is based on the life and loves of Fanny Brice (iconised by Barbra Streisand on stage and screen in the 60’s), with music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Bob Merrill and book by Isobel Lennart. The revival production opened at the Menier Chocolate Factory in November 2015 and sold out within a day (again, no pressure for the album!), making it their fastest selling show on record. With such huge acclaim, the show has now transferred to the Savoy, poetic, as it has been 50 years since the show first opened on the West End, and now they have an Original London Cast Album to add to the list of successes!
Speaking of successes, Smith has many under her own belt and I greatly admire her versatility, vulnerability and charm as an actress. Her working credits are diverse across both stage and screen, winning the BAFTA TV Award for Best Actress for her performances in The 7.39 and Cilla, and winning two Laurence Olivier Awards in consecutive years for Best Actress in a Musical as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde (2011) and Best Performance in a Supporting Role as Doris in a revival of the play Flare Path (2012). It is no secret that she has, sadly, come under the scrutiny of the press – Smith took a short break from Funny Girl in May whilst Natasha J Barnes took the vocal reigns.
However, we can now celebrate Smith’s return to the stage with the release of this album. The music from this show is infectious, toe-tapping and wistful in true Styne style. Smith sounds wonderful in this genre – playful and full of Fanny’s humour, whilst having real vocal prowess and technical perfection. “I’m The Greatest Star” being one of my favourite tracks, providing soaring vocals combined with speedy asides. The vocals of Darius Campbell are smooth and charismatic, particularly in the duet “You are Woman, I am Man” and has a real Sinatra sway. Marilyn Cutts and Joel Montague are another great duo in ‘Who Taught Her Everything She Knows”. The instrumentalists and ensemble are a strong force and create texture and depth throughout, creating a thrilling story.
Finally – and for the record – I am a huge fan of the wonder that is Barbra Streisand, and although not wanting to rain on her parade… I feel it’s important to remember Streisand’s Fanny Brice is one interpretation. Here Sheridan Smith creates Fanny’s comedic and tragic journey within this delightful score. The over-all sound is magical and fresh, containing the excitement of a revival, whilst retaining the historic age-old beauty of Funny Girl.
Reviewed by Lisa MacGregor
FUNNY GIRL is available to buy now!