An ecstatic audience gave Sheridan Smith precisely the response she deserved – a prolonged standing ovation.
Hers is a remarkable performance as Fanny Brice, the joker, the showgirl who proves you don’t have to be slender and elegant to win over your audiences; you just need the kind of spirit she oozes, always with a smile, a smirk to the audience and the resolution to keep on going.
But Smith doesn’t just give us the passion of the performer who can’t stop performing. She gives her us her steel – and, just importantly, her fragility.
After all, this is the girl who is hopelessly devoted to a charming loser, a super suave gambler who is always going to come unstuck. And yet she just keeps on loving him, forcing that smile, clinging on to career and family.
Smith builds a detailed portrait, richly expressive. Just as with the character she’s playing, there’s not a moment she’s not acting – and Smith carries it all with sheer star power and charisma.
Whether this is a musical you can particularly warm to is probably another matter.
The production is faultless, slick without being soulless, with great numbers and terrific dancing.
But at the end of it all, you have to conclude that the point is not so much the show itself as the performance it inspires from Smith.
Smith dazzles – and in dazzling masks the fact that Funny Girl as a musical is hardly up there with the best of its kind. There are many others it is far, far easier to like – for all the performances here deserve our every admiration.
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