(Dominic Cavendish’s article appeared in the Telegraph, 12/3.)
If Sheridan Smith was a star before the lights went up on Funny Girl last night, she was twice the star by the time she took the thunderous curtain-call.
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 (who made her name in the role) could pull it off.
Without a central performance of full-on charisma and chutzpah, Funny Girl – with lush jazz-age music by Jule Styne, witty lyrics by Bob Merrill and book by Isobel Lennart (newly revised by Harvey Fierstein) – would stand miles from the pantheon of greats.