It’s an old cliché, maybe from 42nd Street, that you go on a stage unknown and walk off a star. That is what happened at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre last night, when Natasha J Barnes, taking on the role of Fanny Brice made famous by Barbara Streisand, gave the performance of her life in ‘Funny Girl’, It echoed another role that Streisand starred in, because truly, a Star was Born.
Funny Girl has been theatres most recent phenomenon, with Sheridan Smith winning huge plaudits for her performance as Ziegfeld star Fanny Brice. When Sheridan faced a period of illness and personal trouble, Natasha J Barnes took over the role, and she is frankly astounding in it. Her voice is powerful and emotive, her acting is flawless, and her chemistry with co-star Darius Campbell is a joy to watch, especially on their poignant duet ‘Who are you now?’
The story of Fanny Brice, and her love for Nick Arnstein is a tale that is both hilarious and heartbreaking. Fanny had an almost meteoric rise to fame as a genuine ‘Funny Girl,’ becoming a major star in the Ziegfeld Follies (her performance in Glorification of the American Bride is so, so funny.) Along the way she meets and falls in love with the handsome gambler Nick Arnstein and they marry and have a child. Life seems perfect for the star and her man, but Nick’s financial fortunes take a downward step, and Fanny’s need to help and protect him lead to Nick feeling stifled and taking actions that threaten to destroy them both.
The performance of Natasha J Barnes is superb. Her note perfect performances of the key songs, ‘People’ and ‘Don’t rain on my parade’ are just wonderful, and she is one of those rare performers who can make you laugh out loud, and then try to hide those tears in the same performance. She is matched by her perfect co-star, Darius Campbell, now a world away from ‘Popstars’, he gives a charismatic, sensual performance as Nick. You love how he genuinely loves Brice, and really want his character to turn his fortunes around, a testament to his portrayal. It is hard to think of anyone else who could play Nick with the style and panache of Campbell.
Funny Girl is a stunning piece of musical theatre that charms, entertains and resonates in equal measures. It is one of the must see shows in theatre today. Don’t miss it.
Wolverhampton Grand Theatre
TUE 25 JUL – SAT 29 JUL
Click here for ticket information