Previewed 9 April 2016, Opened 20 April 2016, Closed 8 October 2016 at the Savoy Theatre in London
A major revival of the Jule Styne and lyrics by Bob Merrill musical Funny Girl in London directed by Michael Mayer - transferring to London's West End for a strictly limited season following a sold out run at London's Menier Chocolate Factory in 2015.
The cast for Funny Girl in London features Sheridan Smith as 'Fanny Brice', Darius Campbell as 'Nick Arnstein', Valda Aviks as 'Mrs Meeker', Marilyn Cutts as 'Mrs Brice' and Gay Soper as 'Mrs Strakosh' with Maurice Lane as 'Mr Keeney', Bruce Montague as 'Florenz Ziegfeld' and Joel Montague as 'Eddie Ryan' with Natasha J Barnes as 'Fanny Brice' understudy. Please note that casting is subject to change with notice. With music by Jule Styne, lyrics Bob Merrill, book by Isobel Lennart and revised book by Harvey Fierstein. The production is directed by Michael Mayer with choreography by Lynne Page, sets by Michael Pavelka, costumes by Matthew Wright, lighting by Mark Henderson and sound by Richard Brooker.
When this production opened here at the Savoy Theatre in April 2016 Fiona Mountford in The London Evening Standard highlighted how "Michael Mayer's sassy production is reinforced by Michael Pavelka's elegant, wistful design of a theatre, with rows of burnished mirrors running into the wings. Fanny is endlessly reflected back, but never quite in the image she'd like to see." Jane Shilling in The Daily Telegraph praised how "Michael Mayer's production has verve and spectacle, with crisp musical direction by Theo Jamieson... the jewel at the heart of this production is Sheridan Smith." Quentin Letts in The Daily Mail explained that "two things make this show. The first is the pairing of Miss Smith with Darius Campbell, playing Fanny's unreliable but dashing husband... The second thing that makes it, for me, is Joel Montague's performance as Fanny's chaste, chubby admirer Eddie." Dominic Maxwell in the Times said that "you simply don't see star quality like this too often. Not in the West End, not on Broadway, not anywhere. Playing Fanny Brice... Sheridan Smith has only become more assured now that Michael Mayer's resplendent revival of this 1963 backstage musical has moved into the West End after a few months at the intimate Menier Chocolate Factory in south London... Pretty good musical, pretty great production, pretty unforgettable star turn." Sarah Hemming in The Financial Times hailed Sheridan Smith's "superb star turn in a show that questions what it is that makes a star. Smith's answer (like that of her character): the ability to make a large theatre feel like an intimate space and make your vulnerability your strength."
Sheridan Smith's West End theatre credits include the role of 'Titania' in Michael Grandage's revival of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream with David Walliams as 'Bottom' (Noel Coward Theatre 2013), the title role in Anna Mackmin's revival of Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler (Old Vic Theatre 2012), Trevor Nunn's revival of Terrace Rattigan's play Flare Path along with Sienna Miller and James Purefoy (Haymarket Theatre 2011) and the role of 'Audrey' in Matthew White's revival of the Alan Menken and Howard Ashman musical Little Shop of Horrors (Menier Chocolate Factory 2006 and Duke of York's Theatre 2007). Michael Mayer's London directing credits include the Green Day musical American Idiot (Apollo Theatre 2012) and the Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik musical Spring Awakening (Novello Theatre 2009). Jule Styne's West End credits include, with Bob Merrill Some Like It Hot and, with Stephen Sondheim, Gypsy. Valda Aviks' London theatre credits include the musical Caroline, or Change at the NT's Lyttelton Theatre in 2006.
When this production opened at the Menier Chocolate Factory in November 2015, prior to transferring here at the Savoy Theatre, Michael Billington in the Guardian explained that Sheridan Smith "brings to the role her own brand of exuberant mischief and spiritual warmth. Where audiences admired Streisand, they palpably adore Smith... [she] is a constant joy to watch... even if it's a less-than-great musical, Michael Mayer's production and Michael Pavelka's design exhibit real class." Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail asked: "Can our Sheridan sing? Up to a point, though it is not the greatest of voices. But she more than compensates for any musical shortcomings with her acting, so that the show's best-known song, People, becomes something inward-looking and rueful rather than some belted-out torch-song." Neil Norman in the Daily Express commented that Sheridan Smith "milks every comedic moment and adds a few of her own. Isobel Lennart's book is fairly banal so it is easy to understand why she should take this route... [and] even Harvey Fierstein's revisions can't disguise the fact that this is a set of great songs in search of a script. People, Don't Rain On My Parade and I'm The Greatest Star all get fresh interpretations but I was increasingly aware that I was watching a performer cosying up to fans rather than a real character. Smith is a funny girl but Fanny Brice she ain't." Henry Hitchings in the London Evening Standard hailed Sheridan Smith as being "on glorious form in a role that 50 years ago made Barbra Streisand famous... this is a finely detailed interpretation, alive to the part's comic richness and it's moments of tragic vulnerability... It's a piercingly truthful performance - sometimes gutsy, sometimes anxious, and always a delight." Ian Shuttleworth in the Financial Times thought that "she is never less than wonderful, but this time she's not quite the right kind of wonderful." Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph wrote that, "at a stroke - well, over the course of two and half exhilarating hours - she has done what no actress has managed to do since this musical's 1964 Broadway premiere. That is, follow in Barbra Streisand's footsteps as the irrepressible Ziegfeld Follies comedienne Fanny Brice, and not only play the part for the first time on the London stage in 50 years, but do so with such terrific aplomb that she has finally laid to rest the idea that no one but Streisand could pull it off." Paul Taylor in the Independent said that Sheridan Smith gives a "radiantly warm and winning take on the role [of Fanny Brice] in Michael Mayer's exhilarating embrace of a production." Ann Treneman in the Times described how Smith "grabs this role with both hands, owning it for herself. She doesn't have Streisand's voice but her comic timing is better... The music by Brit Jule Styne is irrepressible and Broadway director Michael Mayer keeps the pace fast and furious."
"A musical is not necessarily everyone's idea of an ideal night in the theatre, let alone a self-absorbed musical about showbiz... But Smith is utterly, irresistibly likeable as Fanny, determined to make it in showbiz without being obnoxiously pushy, slightly clumsy, no great dancer, self-deprecating, sassy and wonderfully funny... Smith can bump into a bit of set and make you laugh, or raise her eyebrows, and she delivers those rapid-fire ripostes in a Brooklyn accent thick enough to slice. She sings well, too, from blasting it out to surprisingly tender. It's a winningly exuberant performance - at times, you feel you're watching the most brilliant comic actress at work today - and she deserves every award going." The Sunday Times
"After the recent revelatory revival of Gypsy, another Jule Styne backstage musical, this heavy-handed, schmaltzy, 'teeth and smiles' treatment is especially unsatisfactory. The show boasts some clever choreography, notably in a mock military number, and has witty lyrics. Marilyn Cutts is splendid as Fanny's mother, but most of the performances are pitched at the back of the Palladium rather than the tiny Menier auditorium. As Fanny, Sheridan Smith has a touching way with a torch song, but she is so intent on not being Barbra Streisand that she forgets to be anyone else." The Sunday Express
"Sheridan Smith... was born to play Fanny Brice, the funny girl from Brooklyn who became a star comedienne on Broadway in the Twenties, in the lavish vaudeville show the Ziegfeld Follies... Funny Girl is a musical of two halves. The fabulous fairy tale first charts Fanny's rise from plucky, precocious song-and-dance kid to the pint-sized, unlikely comedy star of the Ziegfeld Follies... And then, even less likely, she marries Arnstein, who has a fraction of her personality but is twice her height... The second half, in which Arnstein is emasculated by Fanny's success and jailed for embezzlement, lacks dramatic sparkle, in spite of Fanny's sequined frocks. The run at the Menier is already sold out but a transfer across the river to the Savoy Theatre runs from April 8. There, Michael Mayer's well-dressed, high-kicking if slightly squeezed production will have more space to breathe. But until then, no one is going to rain on Smith's parade." The Mail on Sunday
The musical Funny Girl in London at the Savoy Theatre previewed from 9 April 2016, opened on 20 April 2016 and closed on 8 October 2016