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Review: Funny Girl at the Wolverhampton Grand
Culture critic Jennifer Bentley is captivated by the touring production of the iconic musical Funny Girl, telling the rags-to-riches story of Fanny Brice, as it arrives in style at the Wolverhampton Grand
Arriving in the beautiful, vaudevillian theatre that is the Wolverhampton Grand, there was a buzz of excitement making its way through the audience, as we all took our seats and anticipated the start of a classic. Funny Girl, the film that brought Barbra Streisand into our lives, is the female-empowerment comedy of the century, being reproduced all over the world since its first release.
Funny Girl follows the story of the hilarious Fanny Brice, played on this leg of the tour by Natasha J Barnes, and her unlikely success on Broadway in the 1920s. Despite the challenges she faces because of her aesthetic differences, lack of dancing finesse in comparison to the other women trying to make their way on the stage, and her mother’s doubts, Fanny comes into her own and wins over her audiences with her charm and humour. Following her first appearance at Kenney’s amateur night, her fame grows almost overnight, catching the eye of the renowned bachelor Nicky Arnstein, played by Darius Campbell, as she fans-girls her way into his heart. However, life in the New York spotlight brings with it a fair share of struggles, temptations and pitfalls, and it’s not long before Fanny must choose between her love for the stage and the love of her life. The second act follows the consequences of her decisions as we watch our beloved Fanny transform from a naïve caricature into a mature Hollywood star, finding out that life isn’t all candy and the sun isn’t a ball of butter (unfortunately!)
“The journey through Fanny Brice’s rise to stardom is one of many smiles and outrageous laughs...
The journey through Fanny Brice’s rise to stardom is one of many smiles and outrageous laughs, showing for us that ‘the routes of Jewish humour are tangled up in the capacity to laugh in the face of adversity.’ It must be mentioned that my favourite scene was one in Nicky Arnstein’s parlour, as we find out just how innocent and confused our heroine is, and just how dreamy a rich tycoon in a ruffled shirt can really be as she dances clumsily around the stage avoiding his charm.
There was a brilliant chemistry between each of the cast members which spread right into the stalls of the Grand, with it being very evident that the entire production team had all had a blast creating and performing this production. Special mentions go to Barnes for brilliantly filling the massive shoes of a character played by many theatrical and cinematic legends including Barbra Streisand and Sheridan Smith. Barnes' impeccable timing, and enough facial expressions to sink a navy, made for a very cheeky, lovable and relatable Fanny Brice. I definitely wasn’t the only one turning to my friend and saying ‘that’s me!’ Darius Campbell was fantastic in creating a ‘Mr Big’ vibe to Nicky Arnstein, and Nova Skipp should be commended for stepping in as Mrs Brice.
The staging truly captured the atmosphere of the theatrical American Dream. We were treated to bright lights, feathered costumes full of jewels and lavish props and together, the producers, the orchestra, the cast and the crew provided a thoroughly enjoyable evening- it's no wonder the audiences found themselves on their feet!
“Barnes...made for a very cheeky, lovable and relatable Fanny Brice...
Funny Girl is a brilliant night out, and one I cannot recommend enough. Take your mum, take your sister, take your dog - everyone needs to see this production! I can only hope that they also tour again, perhaps with a production of the sequel, Funny Lady!
Funny Girl is currently on a multi-venue tour of the UK and Ireland, and more information on the production, as well as its further venues, can be found here.