(Dominic Cavendish’s article appeared in the Telegraph, 5/13.)

“Incredible”, “phenomenal”… Warm words of approval overheard during the interval of Funny Girl last night.

And later? A standing ovation – the object of applause caught between uncontrolled laughter and barely suppressed tears. Make no mistake, the week Natasha J Barnes has had is the stuff of fairytales.

I rejoice not a wit that Sheridan Smith has had to leave the show, in fraught circumstances, for the time being. But the upside of Smith’s no-show is the discovery of Barnes. The 25 year-old isn’t just a serviceable stand-in, she’s a sensation in her own right.

Direct comparisons are unchivalrous, but it has to be said that the understudy is every bit as good as the actress she’s temporarily replacing. The added piquancy is that her whirlwind story is akin to that being played out on stage, the bio-drama of early 20th-century American vaudeville star Fanny Brice.


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