Just a fortnight ago, bets were already being placed on Glenn Close to secure the 2017 Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her commanding turn as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard – but I’d say all bets are off again. Sheridan Smith as asserted her claim to declare “I am the greatest star, I am by far”, which she does, with aplomb in the second Jule Styne-Bob Merrill in Funny Girl, and then goes on to demonstrate throughout the evening at every gurn and turn. The fact that Sheridan is playing the real-life Fanny Brice who would have been a contemporary of the fictitious Norma’s in her heyday makes the tussle for supremacy even more interesting.
But enough about Close, and let’s not even mention Barbra Streisand (who, of course originated the role of Brice in this musical on stage and screen), Sheridan is the woman of the hour. Critics already lauded her performance when this reboot of Funny Girl first opened at the Menier Chocolate Factory last December. But now we have a fresh raft of raves as well as all the glitz and glamour – red carpet, many celebrities, wide-ranging black-tie fashion statements, tears, flowers, champagne (or was it prosecco?) and a rapturous standing ovation – of a major West End opening.
On a sadder note, the timing of Victoria Wood’s death also drew comparisons with this British “funny girl”, with many of the celebrity guests paying tribute to Wood, who passed away yesterday at the age of 62 after a short battle with cancer. Sheridan’s father was also recently diagnosed with cancer, but I know he would have been so proud last night of his daughter – just like the rest of us.
TERRI ON TWITTER
I felt very privileged to be at the opening night of Funny Girl last night at the Savoy Theatre, basking in the warm embrace of Sheridan’s big, open-hearted, life-affirming performance. (Follow me on @TerriPaddock for more tweets from the night.)
— Terri Paddock (@TerriPaddock) April 20, 2016