Entertainment, Lifestyle, Manchester, Review

Review: Funny Girl at Manchester’s Palace Theatre

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By Verity Carson

Image: Funny Girl the Musical

Lining up outside the packed Palace Theatre, it was hard not to notice that we were the minority. The theatre line was bustling with older ladies who, unlike me, had watched the 1968 Funny Girl movie starring Barbra Streisand. But for me, Sheridan Smith’s exceptional portrayal in Funny Girl left me satisfied that she was the only possible Fanny Brice.

The musical comedy, set in post World War I New York and directed by Tony Award winner Michael Mayer, depicts the stormy relationship between Ziegfeld Follies star Fanny and her gambling entrepreneur husband Nick Arnstein, played by Chris Peluso. The chemistry between the pair was electric. Even when their relationship was in despair, there was still sparks flying, particularly during their duet of ‘Who Are You Now?’

Funny Girl proved that Sheridan Smith is worthy of her OBE title, her ability to get the 1,900 capacity theatre to laugh at her every line an accomplishment in itself. Her dynamic style of acting is something to be admired, from her ability to deliver a faultless Yorkshire accent in the recent real-life drama The Moorside to becoming an all singing New Yorker in Funny Girl. Smith demonstrates what can only be described as an artist who has truly mastered her craft.

Yet it wasn’t all about the singing. The show’s ballet and tap showed off the extraordinary talents of the musical theatre stars and Mayer’s decision to incorporate the dance sequences was a perfect choice which provided a balance of song and dance to keep the audience engaged throughout the two-and-a-half-hour long production.

Brice’s willingness to ‘make it’ is the real driving force of the production, with everyone doubting her decision to become a theatre star, including her mother which we see through her song ‘If a girl isn’t pretty, like a Miss Atlantic City’. Brice proves you don’t have to fit the mould, and her determination and hope set her on the path to success, leaving the audience to feel as smug as she is.

Perhaps a negative of this production, however, was the storyline, which often felt rushed as it showed Brice becoming a theatre star after a single audition. The true reality is that Brice had an endless amount of New York auditions before her stardom, although few would blame Mayer’s decision to shorten such a sequence in favour of a more captivating storyline.

The music, which was partly performed by a live orchestra, is better than anyone could have expected. The stand out vocals of course belonged to the star of the show Sheridan Smith, with her rendition of the infamous ‘Don’t Rain On My Parade’ leaving the audience roaring with applause and giving her a standing ovation, one whole-heartedly deserved.

Even through the unfortunate events that occurred in Fanny Brice’s life, she managed to keep her spirit alive, leaving audience members giggling throughout. There was certainly nothing going to rain on this Funny Girl’s Parade.



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