New Victoria Theatre, Woking
25 April 2017
Following an acclaimed season at London's Savoy Theatre, Funny Girl is now on the road across the UK delivering an almighty dose of Broadway pizazz to the masses and it is a tribute to the producers that what touring venues are getting is almost identical to what was staged at the Savoy. No cuts, no scrimping, this Funny Girl is nothing short of fabulous.
Tonight in Woking Natasha J Barnes and Darius Campbell played Fanny Brice and Nick Arnstein, roles that are being rotated with Sheridan Smith and Chris Peluso. It was great to catch up with Natasha nearly a year after she was thrust to fame as Sheridan Smith's understudy during an unexpected period where Sheridan was absent from the show. Returning now it's wonderful to see Natasha's face on the poster and her getting the privileges of having a rehearsal period and the space to really inhabit this iconic role. No longer standing in, Natasha J Barnes is now the star! Bravo!
What we get a year on is a knockout performance from Natasha that perfectly balances the show's showstoppers with finely nuanced comedy. There's real emotion in this performance and it's a real pleasure to watch. The score of Funny Girl by Jule Styne with lyrics by Bob Merrill is in good hands here.
Leading men don't come any better than Darius Campbell. Towering over Natasha with a gorgeous baritone that has the smooth sensuality of one Nat King Cole, his take on famed gambler Nick Arnstein seems effortless and suave. There's obvious chemistry between Campbell and Barnes that makes their love affair all the more palpable and its demise all the more heart-breaking.
There are some wonderful performances from Joshua Lay as all-together nice-guy Eddie Ryan, Nigel Barber as Florenz Ziegfeld and Rachel Izen as Mrs Brice. Mrs B is one of those wonderfully realised characters, light and comedic but gutsy when it comes to her approach to her daughter and her son-in-law.
Kudos to the wonderful ensemble in this production, hard working, and dancing up a storm, this small ensemble pack a stylish punch that is to be admired.
Michael Mayer's fabulous direction when combined with Lynne Page's choreography and Michael Pavelka's set and Matthew Wright's costumes make this a delightful ornate chocolate box of treats that never distract from the central drive of Fanny's story. It was wonderful to see Musical Director Ben Van Tienen conducting a band a few shy of the Savoy complement really giving the score the dramatic oompf that it so richly deserves.
It was a delight to revisit Funny Girl tonight. It's a wonderfully rich evening in the theatre and the partnering of Barnes and Campbell is pure theatre magic.