- Kelly Apter
- 20 April 2017
Sheridan Smith shoots for the laughs in popular stage production
As one of the biggest stars of the early 20th century, Fanny Brice lit up both Broadway and Hollywood with her comedic style and powerful voice. A hundred years later, it's hard to separate Brice from the woman who won an Academy Award playing her in 1968, Barbra Streisand. But, if you're to enjoy this stage version of Funny Girl, that's exactly what you need to do.
Sheridan Smith has been much lauded for her portrayal of Brice, first in the intimate surroundings of London's Menier Chocolate Factory in 2015, then transferring to the West End and now a UK tour to large-scale venues like the 3000-seater Edinburgh Playhouse.
Inevitably, playing to a house of thousands makes subtlety and nuance a lot harder, and reeling in the laughs emerges as the top priority – with one particular exchange with Darius Campbell, as love interest Nick Arnstein, straying into end of the pier territory. Something the film, classy to the last drop, never did. Like Brice, however, Smith knows just how to tickle a crowd, and even if it feels a little over-egged at times, clearly they love her for it.
Competing with Streisand's vocal style is a non-starter for pretty much anyone, but Smith is more than capable of belting out the climactic ending 'Don't Rain on My Parade' demands. The accompanying ensemble also give their all, with the triumvirate of older women (Mrs Brice and pals) adding their own brand of sharp Brooklyn humour to a production which knows its target audience, and hits them square on.