Stephen Mear directs and choreographs a new production of the Barbra Striesand classic Funny Girl in Paris this winter, starring actress Christina Bianco, who truly is the greatest star.
Funny Girl tells the story of Fanny Brice – the girl who wants to be a star but is repeatedly told she doesn’t have the right look. She’s quirky, funny and short – none of which fit in with the beautiful slender girls being cast for stage shows. But Fanny’s sheer determination drives her to succeed and become one of the biggest stars in history. She meets and marries Nick Arnstein – the love of her life, but their busy schedules keep them apart for long stretches of time which tests their relationship.
Actor and musical impressionist (with over 25 million video views on YouTube) Christina Bianco honestly shines as Fanny Brice and looks like she is having the time of her life on stage. Christina has enjoyed huge success as a cabaret artist but here she proves she is a versatile actress, mixing comedy with heartbreaking emotion and makes me wonder why she hasn’t been cast in leading musical theatre roles before now. Ashley Day (as Nick Arnstein) manages to play the slightly obnoxious business man to perfection, whilst also conveying enough charm and charisma that the audience understand what Fanny loves about him so much (not something I have seen in previous productions). Matthew Jeans is also perfectly cast as Fanny’s best friend and sidekick Eddie, who longs for Fanny to look at him the way she does her husband. A cliché I know but there honestly isn’t a weak link in the chain in this production.
Choreography is slick and tight and the direction perfect. A bug-bear of mine is always when you can see into the wings at the side of the stage and see actors messing around before they enter for a scene but every single actor was perfectly in character, even when not visibly centre stage. The costumes by Peter McKintosh are exquisite and so much attention to detail has been paid to every single outfit. I particularly enjoyed the army outfits, which didn’t go for the obvious idea of using camouflage but instead went full-out fabulosity!
Theatre doesn’t need to be expensive. I bought a cheap €15 (£13) ticket and the view was very good. I’d go as far as to say there probably isn’t a bad seat in the house which holds 1,000.
So book the Eurostar from London to Paris (it’s literally two hours) and be able to say you saw this production here first – because it is certain to have a life beyond this. It is too incredible not to. One of the easiest five star ratings I have given in a long time.
Reviewed by West End Wilma
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