Wednesday, 26 April 2017

REVIEW: Funny Girl at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking

Natasha J. Barnes shines as the funniest of the lot in this new touring production of Funny Girl, direct from London’s Savoy Theatre. 

Having been fortunate enough to see the original staging of this production at the Menier Chocolate Factory with Sheridan Smith, I was curious to see how it had been adapted for a much larger stage and I am happy to say, it flourished! The ensemble numbers were given the space they truly needed for them to marry appropriately with the seismic score, and Fanny Bryce was given the grand, Broadway stage that her voice had always craved and made her triumph all the more satisfying in her final, defying moment. 

Chris Walker’s rich and brassy orchestrations bring a fitting fanfare to proceedings and render the climactic musical moments even more tantalising, and Lynne Page’s choreography is a visual delight. As is Michael Pavelka’s reflective set design, with long mirrors that run down each side of the stage in place of the wings – utilised very poignantly during the final sequence where Fanny’s memories swirled round her in a ghostly line up. 

Darius Campbell was as suave and charming as ever and Joshua Lay received a deserving cheer for his impressive tap routine. Along with Rachel Izen’s Mrs Brice, ‘Who taught her everything she knows?’ stands out as a particular highlight – and a nice break from action elsewhere. Completing the trio of gossiping poker players are Myra Sands as Mrs Strakosh and Zoe Ann Brown with a particularly and surprisingly energetic Mrs Meeker.

Of course, praise must fall to the leading lady herself. It is no wonder Natasha J
Barnes took the West End by storm when she stepped in for Sheridan Smith at the Savoy. She is genuinely a very, very funny girl and her music hall numbers are delightfully executed with impeccable comedic timing. Ultimately, her youthful naivety transforms completely. She gives an utterly empowering performance in her final sequence – from shunted single mother to Broadway powerhouse who wins the hearts of the critics. It dawned on me, that Ms Barnes and Miss Brice share a very similar story – they are by far, both, ‘the greatest stars.’ 

Review by Alex Coppola 

Rating: ★★★★
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