Saturday, 24 September 2016

'Funny Girl' Savoy Theatre *****

The diminutive Menier Chocolate Factory has a bulky list of triumphant West End transfers such as; the 2013 production of Sondheim’s, ‘Merrily We Roll Along’ which won an Olivier Award and this year has guaranteed another success for the theatre. The West End transfer of, Isabel Lennart, Julie Styne and Bob Merrill’s 1963 musical, ‘Funny Girl’ was an extraordinary production about a person who may not have and the best talent, but her personality shone through, additionally, the offerings were tremendous throughout.

‘Funny Girl’ is set in America where we are habituated with performer, Fanny Brice who is sat in her dressing room awaiting the return of her spouse, Nick Arnstein who has been facing a stint in prison and for Fanny, she has to figure out what the future of them is. She remembers a time when her own mother, Mrs Brice (Marilyn Cutts) and her poker playing friends mocked Fanny’s dreams of becoming a performer, on the other hand, when Fanny is introduced to manager, Eddie Ryan (Joel Montague) they become friends and he then agrees to sign her and as such; Fanny’s career in the entertainment industry could just be around the corner. When she is performing her act, Fanny meets suited and booted, Nick Arnstein and she instantly becomes besotted by him, then again, her career comes first as producer, Florence Zeigfeld (Bruce Montague) wants to employ her for his upcoming Follies. Over the course of the performance, we see Fanny and Nick develop a relationship with one another and this is due to their yearning for being together. After a bit of time apart, Fanny and Nick reunite as Nick had to go back to his farm in Kentucky, so the two have dinner with each other. It appears that Fanny is completely smitten by Nick and decides to cancel a part of her tour to be with Nick in New York City as she seems that her only chance of happiness so she does not care that her performance career could take a tumble. Fanny and Nick soon marry and live in a gargantuan Long Island mansion and with their family and close friends who join them in their celebration; Fanny is so overjoyed with her life.  Throughout the performance, Fanny’s mother, Mrs Brice is being pushed by Eddie and neighbour, Mrs Strakosh (Gay Soper) to find another husband as her daughter’s career has sky rocketed which is a huge change to Mrs Brice’s immediate reaction to Fanny’s hopes for the future when she was a child. Fanny’s husband, Nick has quite a lot of money problems because of a business deal that has fallen through and Nick is rapidly arrested and convicted for embezzling money and Fanny’s mother states that Fanny is also to blame for Nick’s capital troubles.  At the finale, Nick is about to be released from prison and it seems to Fanny that their marriage will ultimately bring pure sadness despite the fact that the two still love one another no matter what. Lennart’s narrative is world class here as we get to see how novelty acts can actually have such long lasting careers and in today’s modern world we have Jedward who have forged a fruitful career and to be honest I do love Jedward. Also musical numbers from Styne and Merrills such as; “I Want to be Seen with You”, “You Are A Woman, I Am Man”, “Who Taught Her Everything She Knows?” and “Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat” were excellently composed and the lyrics were captivating.

One found the performances by the company of, ‘Funny Girl’ to be phenomenally depicted with exemplary vocals and choreographic sequences from a brilliant ensemble and there is a marvellous camaraderie from the entire team. Sheridan Smith is out of this solar system as central protagonist, Fanny Brice; specifically how we see that a person with such aspirations of a future in the entertainment becomes a reality and there is a deep sadness that exudes from her as her marriage to Nick is diminishing as money hasn’t done them any favours; moreover, her vocal ability in, “Don’t Rain On My Parade” was amazing. Darius Campbell is remarkable as Fanny’s husband, Nick Arnstien; for example how we see that he may try his best to be the top husband for Fanny but he has a lot of disadvantages because of the problems he is having with obtaining investments for his businesses , yet he has an array of respect for his wife which does show to us that he loves her and that he can be a good man to her throughout their marriage.

Michael Mayer’s direction and Lynne Page’s choreography is fabulous here as Mayer has categorically presented a revival that is magical and compelling and with Page’s choreography we are brought back to Follies and the whole Vaudeville era to such elegance and the flawless energy states how wonderful the show is. Michael Pavelka’s set design and Matthew Wright’s costume design are extraordinary as the set itself has been designed to bring us into Fanny Brice’s rise to fame and notoriety and the costumes were blissful and constructed with the finest detail so nothing was taken to chance here. Overall, the experience of, ‘Funny Girl’ was distinctively dreamy and a worthy addition to the West End theatre landscape so it would not surprise me if the show is the big winner at the 2017 Olivier Awards.  

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