Last night I was in the audience at the Birmingham Hippodrome to watch ‘Funny Girl’. I left feeling privileged to have watched one of the great modern theatre stars playing a role that she has made her own. Sheridan Smith is sensational as Fanny Brice, and ‘Funny Girl’ is a masterpiece. I was mesmerised from start to finish.
‘Funny Girl’ is the story of the rise of 1920s star Fanny Brice, and of her love story with the gambler and con man Nicky Arnstein. Fanny is a theatre natural, a funny girl who can also bring the house down with the beauty of her voice. Told that she was not suitable for the chorus line because she wasn’t beautiful enough, Fanny is given her chance by her friend, choreographer Eddie Ryan, who was also in love with her. Fanny becomes a star and moves to the famous Ziegfeld Follies. She also meets the man who proves to be the love of her life, Nicky Arnstein (Darius Campbell), a suave smooth talker who charms and exasperates Fanny in equal turns. Fanny has it all, fame, fortune and love, but a series of events pull Nicky to the brink, and Fanny’s overpowering love starts to stifle Nicky, changing the man who fell in love with the ‘funny girl’.
Sheridan Smith was born to play Fanny Brice. She is a pocket dynamo who dominates the stage with her powerful and expressive voice and her force of personality. She brings Fanny Brice to life in such a way that you feel that you are actually watching the return of the 1920s star, so perfect is she in this role. Her performance of key songs such as ‘People’ and ‘Don’t rain on my parade’ are extraordinary, and her comic skills shine as the pregnant bride in the Ziegfeld wedding scene, and the hilarious ‘You are Woman, I am Man’. Watching Sheridan, you are in the presence of brilliance.
In the role of Nicky Arnstein, Darius Campbell is matinee star perfect, and has great chemistry with Smith. He is smooth and self assured in the role, but also gives the character real heart which allows you to feel real sympathy for Nicky as life continues to deal him bad hand after bad hand. His beautiful singing voice is used to full effect as he effortless puts heart and soul into the songs, and his final scene is Fanny is heartbreaking, containing so much love and tenderness.
In the supporting roles Rachel Izen is strong as mother Mrs Brice, whilst Joshua Lay gives a stunning performance as Eddie Ryan, a real song and dance man who was given a spontaneous round of applause with every amazing dance routine. The set was also excellent, whether it be railway platforms or backstage at the theatre.
Funny Girl is not just another musical, it is an event that is not to be missed. You’ll be talking about it for years.
Birmingham Hippodrome for One week only.
Wed 10 – Sat 13 May
Click here for information