I’m not sure what they’re putting in the tea at the Savoy Theatre, but it’s working a treat.
No sooner had Imelda Staunton’s Olivier-winning turn as Momma Rose in Gypsy passed into theatrical legend than the effervescent revival of Guys and Dolls captured the public’s imagination, and now comes director Michael Mayer’s revival of another Broadway classic featuring a quite sublime performance from Sheridan Smith.
This production’s reputation precedes it, having broken box office records at the small Menier Chocolate Factory last year. It was such a hot ticket that a West End transfer was announced even before a note had been sung at the Menier.
Sheridan Smith as Fanny Brice and company
Smith stars as Fanny Brice, the girl from a poor area of Brooklyn with a gift for singing, acting and above all comedy, who rose from playing burlesque review theatres to superstar status and headlining shows for legendary impresario Florenz Ziegfeld. Her association with the Ziegfeld Follies lasted from 1910 into the 1930s and her career encompassed radio and films.
Smith perfectly captures what made Brice such a draw. Her multilayered performance displays an impeccable gift for comedy — both spoken and physical; her vocal talents on the show’s big numbers People and Don’t Rain on My Parade make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up; and her nuanced turn in the more delicate emotional scenes make you want to give her a hug.
Expanded from the small stage at the Menier, the show is given added scope and has been allowed to breathe. As a result, choreographer Lynne Page’s routines are given a new energy and ensemble numbers don’t feel so crowded.
While this is very much Smith’s show, charismatic support comes from Darius Campbell as Nick Arnstein, the society playboy who was to sweep Fanny off her feet, and there are delightful performances from Marilyn Cutts as Fanny’s mother, along with Valda Aviks and Gay Soper as her poker-playing neighbours.
This is a good old-fashioned West End show with 11 o’clock numbers that will put a spring in your step and a smile on your face. Unmissable.
Funny Girl is at the Savoy Theatre until 8 October