Sheridan Smith’s Portrayal of Fanny Brice Draws Long Applause and Standing Ovation
The accolades continue to pour in for Sheridan Smith since she returned to her lead role as Fanny Brice in ‘Funny Girl’ at the 1,150-seat Savoy Theatre.
West End production announced a leave of absence two months ago for Smith due to stress and exhaustion. In her place, understudy Natasha J Barnes played Fanny Brice in the musical classic to critical acclaim. But Smith’s characteristic flawless performance on her return drew long applauses and a standing ovation from an appreciative audience that could not hold back their flood of emotion.
‘Funny Girl’ is back on stage at London’s West End 50 years after the hit musical transferred in 1966, following critical acclaim and a record sell out run at the Menier Chocolate Factory. This original Broadway hit which includes some of the greatest songs in theatre history like ‘People’ and ‘Don’t Rain on My Parade,’ parades an impressive cast including Darius Campbell who remarkably played the part of Nicky Arnstein, Fanny Brice’s love interest, as well as Marilyn Cutts who brought energy, warmth and humour to the role of Fanny’s mother.
The musical show is the story of an enthralling and bitter-sweet tale of Fanny Brice who had a stormy relationship with gambler Nicky Arnstein, and whose musical talents and humorous personality shot her from a music hall singer in Brooklyn to a Broadway star.
Smith is no doubt the star of the show as other performances tend to pale by comparison. This is no surprise really for those who have closely watched how Sheridan Smith admirably fit into the shoes of the iconic Barbra Streisand who commanded the stage in 1964 with her perfect characterization of New York comedienne and singer Fanny Brice, so much so that London had not staged ‘Funny Girl’ since then.
Songs that have practically become owned by Streisand have been extricated by Smith and rendered with a charming gentleness, immaculate flair and elegance. Her vocal talents aside, there is an eloquence to Smith’s overall performance that makes it easy to see how Brice, a shy and clumsy Jewish girl, became a darling of theatre goers and Vaudeville’s biggest star in the early 1900s. Even the tiny twitch of her eyebrow, her charming giggles and the way she beams a smile provokes goodhearted laughs and rounds of applause from the audience.
Smith, who has won two Olivier awards for other stage performances and was awarded an OBE last year, has said her portrayal as Fanny was her dream role.
After her commanding performance that earned praise from both fans and critics, the producers were obviously delighted with their star act, announcing in a statement that they were glad to welcome Sheridan Smith back to ‘Funny Girl.’ Audience members were ecstatic and took to Twitter to express their pleasure and shower encomiums on her. Fellow cast member, Matthew Goodgame tweeted that it was a pleasure to act the character of Nick opposite Smith.