The Show That Makes Me Dance: FUNNY GIRL at the Savoy

It's rare that you get to see a show you've loved for years come to life on stage for the first time when you visit the theatre a lot - and it's even rarer to thoroughly enjoy it after such a long build up - but the Menier Chocolate Factory revival of Funny Girl manages just that. Since the show first properly entered my brain way back in 2009, I fell deeply in love. 

This show, with music by Jule Styne whom I already adored from his work on Gypsy, had clearly crafted a soaring score of Broadway classics and they filled my heart. There was something so beautiful about this intimate and personal piece that spoke to me; a coming of age tale set at the heart of show business really is a story that I fall for. Only ever having the DVD of the movie and the cast recording the Broadway production at my side, tonight's performance was my first visual exposure to the original stage show I'd ever had and this new production is nothing short of sublime.

Sheridan Smith and the company of Funny Girl

My main concern was that I'd dislike Sheridan Smith's performance and I'm sure that's something many others worry about as well. It's hard when someone as iconic as Barbra Streisand is the only other person to have played the role in such a major way before you, but Smith really does reach the mark. 50 years ahead of the opening of the original Streisand-led West End production, Smith has made the role her own modern interpretation and the risks she takes and performance she gives should be applauded. Instead of Brice feeling like a diva from start to finish, she now has so much more heart and honesty to her; a woman as lovable as Sheridan Smith has obviously made her performance as welcoming as possible and it's greatly appreciated.

Darius Campbell makes a very suave and sexy Nick Arnstein in a leading man performance that really sells. Not only is he classy but he's sweet and much less fancy than Omar Sheriff's unforgettable performance in the film. Yes it's different but it works and with Smith at his side, they make a wonderful and totally convincing pair. Marilyn Cutts as Fanny's mother, Joel Montague as Eddie and the entire ensemble should be noted for their performances as well; A show is only as good as its entire team and a good team is what this show really has.

Sheridan Smith stars as Fanny Brice in the smash hit Funny Girl at the Savoy Theatre

Michael Mayer comes back to London to direct this updated production of Funny Girl and his work is as spot on as ever. The pick of him as a director originally made me skeptical as the only work he'd done before this that was similar to Funny Girl was Thoroughly Modern Millie almost a decade ago, but his work was wonderful to watch. He's a man that knows how to make an iconic moment on stage come to life (something he managed to do a lot in Hedwig and the Angry Inch) and it's a style that fits this star-centric show perfectly. Harvey Fierstein's book revisions are my favourite new addition to the show though: seamless and they go by unnoticed, just like a good revised book should do, but what are you to expect from a multi-talent like Fierstein? The incomparable six-time Olivier winner Mark Henderson also provides his perfect lighting design once more and Matthew Wright presents some of his exceptional costume design work as well. As two of the most talented craftsmen in the business, you know the show's in good hands with this stellar design team.

Is this revival of Funny Girl worth the hype? Yes. Not only is the show technically astonishing from a source material perspective, but the new production that it helms is equally as transcendent. Sheridan Smith is a jewel in this show's crown as well and her beautiful performance is one of the best in town - she really is the greatest star.


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