Funny Girl – The Musical with Sheridan Smith
Bristol Hippodrome 2017
Our Verdict: Brilliant
Our Rating: 10/10
The sum total of my knowledge of Funny Girl, before watching it at the Bristol Hippodrome, was Robin Williams impersonating Barbra Streisand’s version of the character in the 1968 movie.
And hold that Robin Williams thought, because once you realise that Rachel Izen -Fanny’s mother Mrs Brice – was wearing Mrs Doubtfire’s wig, It’s impossible to un-see the entire illusion of the nanny in her costume or performance.
But that’s fine, because this show is all about funny. The clue is in the name. It’s a funny old show based on the story of Fanny Brice’s rise to fame in the Ziegfeld Follies.
What’s unique about this show is that its success absolutely hangs on the ability of the leading lady. Cock up Fanny – genuinely no pun was intended when this sentence started – then the whole performance is ruined.
But Sheridan Smith is just marvellous. If ever there was a person born to play this role, then it’s her. Her warmth, humour and sheer brilliance radiates into the entire audience and we just love her. Add to that, she absolutely nails the Brooklyn Jewish accent and her vocals are outstanding. I can’t think of a time I’ve seen another female artiste as good as this in Bristol and it would be a shame to miss this outstanding performance if you live in the city.
There are so many great moments in this show with its wonderful cast of supporting actors. The bit where I laughed until I cried was during You Are Woman, I Am Man. It has to be one of the funniest scenes I’ve ever seen in musical theatre. It’s brilliantly directed and Chris Peluso as Nick Arnstein was able to match Smith for comedy in this scene.
Of course, that’s not forgetting the big number that we all know. It wasn’t until the end of Don’t Rain On My Parade that I realised I had been holding my breath through most of it in sheer anticipation. And, what a rendition it was. Flawless and jam packed with personality.
However let’s take a moment to go wow at Michael Pavelka’s brilliant theatre within a theatre set design and Mark Henderson’s lighting. Between them, they have created a thing of beauty as the action moves between on stage and back stage. The backdrop of the lit up auditorium becoming visible during the world’s longest musical overture was punch-the-air brilliant.
The second Act is a strange one. It’s much more serious and a lot has to be fitted into a short amount of time. Having said that, the show does weigh in at a heftyish 2 hours 30 minutes. The time does fly by before you find yourself seat shuffling and fighting for armrest space with your toe-tapping neighbour.
This show is good old fashioned musical theatre. Some of the thinking of the time can sit uncomfortably with left wing liberal types and at times I felt a little alienated by the obvious generations gap definitely echoed by the audience demographic.
However, this is a fabulous opportunity for Bristol to see a true ‘star’ on stage in the perfectly crafted high production musical.
Funny Girl is at The Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday 25 March 2017