PHOTOGRAPH: MANUEL HARLAN

Funny Girl is a musical loosely based on the life of real star Fanny Brice.  Some liberties are taken with the facts but it is entertainment with a capital E and essentially remains the story of a vaudeville chorus girl who rose to become a Ziegfeld Follies star.  Along the way she met and fell head over heels in love with Nick Arnstein, a suave gambler, whom she married and with whom she had two children.

Those are the basics of the show. But despite her total infatuation, her love was sorely tested when he was constantly away on the racetrack or playing cards when she wanted his support.  He, on the other hand, was desperate to make sufficient money so that he could stand as her equal and not have to be bankrolled by Fanny whenever he needed cash. Alas, his “no fail” plan to open a money-making casino was dashed when a hurricane destroyed the building and so he turned to crime and a dodgy Wall Street bond scam to make the fortune he longed for. He was caught out and sent to prison.  On his release, he admitted to Fanny that he had come to realise that they are not compatible and they divorce with the show ending with Fanny, left on her own, singing ‘The music that makes me dance’ – almost a soliloquy. Along with the plot come a host of exuberant musical numbers and several dance routines, most of which involve Fanny but demonstrating the talent of the chorus. Comedy is provided by Fanny’s mother and her poker-playing lady friends.

Funny GirlNatasha J Barnes, apparently the second string for the part of Fanny, who is playing selected venues on the UK tour deputising for Sheridan Smith, nevertheless gives us a flawless performance as does Darius Campbell as Nick, pictured right.  Both of whom are well served by Joshua Lay as Eddie, her long-time mentor, and Rachel Izen as Fanny’s mother, Mrs Brice, and the rest of the cast. Michael Pavelka has produced a fitting set and Michael Mayer is to be congratulated on his direction so the show well deserved the stand-up ovation it received at the end of the performance.

[Dermot Hoare 25 April 2017]

Funny Girl is at the New Victoria theatre, Woking from Tuesday 25 April to Saturday 29 April at 7.30pm, with 2.30pm matinees on Thursday and Saturday

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