As a newbie to the classic musical Funny Girl, I was excited to see what the musical—fresh from the highly acclaimed West End production—would offer. What a treat.
Understudying for Sheridan Smith is the stunning Natasha J Barnes as Fanny Brice. Having seen her perform in Cinderella in London last year, I have prior experience of her astounding charisma and fantastic singing voice. Playing to a disappointed audience, all expecting to see Smith, the show gets off to a fairly quiet start with the audience barely raising a smile to Barnes’ gorgeous rendition of I’m The Greatest Star. Ever the professional, Barnes quickly brings the audience firmly on her side and, by the end of the show, I strongly believe the entire audience is thinking “Sheridan who?” Barnes is effortlessly charming, quirky and entirely loveable and it really is no surprise that the hero of the show, Nick Arnstein, falls head over heels for her wit and feisty attitude that at no point feels irritating or unbelievable – a tricky balance to master yet one Barnes does perfectly.
Let’s move on to Darius Campbell as Nick Arnstein. Not only is his rich, deep voice enough to make anyone swoon, he adds a lovely vulnerability to his role as the gambling bad boy turned kept man. Nick Arnstein’s need for freedom comes across as sweet and desperately important and I feel empathy for both characters in this situation. The ending has me in floods of tears as Fanny Brice and Nick Arnstein share a heart-to-heart before Brice delivers her Finale. The connection between the pair is lovely and their voices complement each other well.
The rest of the cast are also directed by Michael Mayer well, with each member of the cast bringing something fresh and unique to the stage. The choreography by Lynne Page is also masterful. It ranges from full chorus numbers to subtle almost off-stage touches of symbolic choreography that brings the whole production together. Finally, the set, designed by Michael Pavelka, is exceptionally clever. The way the stage is transformed into, well, a stage allows us to see the backstage goings-on whilst still seeing the magical moment the cast walk onstage. It brings the audience into this beautiful world and I am totally transfixed.
Get your tickets from The Alhambra Theatre. It will run until 10th June.