With the House of Commons Syria vote last night, it may be surprising that any other news gets a look-in in today’s newspapers. But in musical theatre happenings, the big news was London’s first major revival of Jule Styne’s Broadway classic Funny Girl. The big question: could Sheridan Smith lay to rest the ghost of Barbra Streisand, who originated the role of Fanny Brice on stage and (Oscar-winning) screen? And the big answer: a resounding yes.
Though many critics still find the musical itself problematic, despite Harvey Fierstein‘s tweaks to the book, it’s been showered with strong four- and five-star raves on the strength of Smith’s “scrumptious” and “high-voltage” comic and heartfelt performance.
Funny Girl sold out within 90 minutes of going on sale at the Menier Chocolate Factory. Ticket sales for the already-announced West End transfer to the Savoy Theatre – where Imelda Staunton has just finished another career-defining performance in another Styne musical, Gypsy – will be given another huge boost by these reviews. It’s surely no accident of timing that 2016 also marks the 50th anniversary of the musical’s original 1966 London production. Will Sheridan Smith and this British company, helmed by American director Michael Mayer, take the show home to Broadway next?