Frances Winston reviews this iconic musical, with Sheridan Smith in the lead role as Fanny Brice
This is probably the most-hyped musical that has rolled into the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre this year, starring as it does the darling of stage and screen that is Sheridan Smith.
Most people are familiar with this tale, since the original stage musical was turned into the film of the same name, which cemented the star-status of its leading lady – one Barbra Streisand.
If you’re not familiar with it, in a nutshell it is the story of Vaudeville legend, Fanny Brice – the funny girl of the title. Although lauded publicly for her comedic skills, she had a tumultuous private life, and here it is laid totally bare as we follow her journey from wannabe to star.
Along the way she meets the dashing Nicky Arnstein, who is as shady as he is handsome. Blinded by love however, Fanny is unable to see his faults, until their life together eventually implodes.
Smith attacks the role of Brice with gusto. She brings both energy and heart to the role, and a huge amount of humour. She is aided in no small part by pop-star turned leading man, Darius Campbell, as Nicky. Despite his reality TV origins, he proves that he actually has a depth and talent beyond the clever editing of a throwaway television show.
There is a fantastic chorus of performers who perform multiple roles with aplomb, and there are several older cast-members in the form of Fanny’s mother and her cohorts. Far from being token characters, these ladies play a very active role, which is extremely refreshing in the youth-centric world of musical theatre.
The sets are spectacular, and quite epic for a touring show, as are the costumes. Given that Brice was a Vaudeville star, these hark back to the opulence of that era, and some of them will literally cause your jaw to drop. Then of course there are the songs. Saying that they are iconic is a bit of an understatement, and several of them have become Streisand signatures, so for Smith to manage to make them her own is truly an accomplishment
Every person on stage seems to be having a fantastic time, and it’s not hard to see why. This is a really uplifting, joyous show despite the sometimes uncomfortable aspects of Nicky and Brice’s relationship. This is very much a whitewashed version of their relationship, which was far more complex than that which is portrayed here. But why let the facts get in the way of a good story? And this is a good story that totally rests on Smith’s shoulders, and she takes it and runs with it.
They’re not reinventing the wheel, or trying to revolutionise musical theatre, but as a testament to the power of a classic show, this really stands the test of time, and will leave you with a smile on your face and a spring in your step.
Runs until July 15th – 7.30pm nightly, and matinees Thursday 13th and Saturday 15th at 2.30pm