(Claire Allfree’s article appeared in the Telegraph, 2/25.)

If there were any doubt that Sheridan Smith is the closest we have to a musical theatre superstar, then take a look at the UK dates for Funny Girl. Smith has just played three sold out nights as Fanny Brice at the 2,000 seater Manchester Palace Theatre, while the show will visit a further 21 similarly sized venues over the next six months. Smith will play 12; the remainder will star Natasha J Barnes, who ably stepped in during the London run when Smith briefly withdrew suffering from exhaustion. It’s an actor’s equivalent of a stadium tour.

Smith has already received accolades galore for her performance as Vaudeville sensation Brice, the role one used to describe as immortalised by Barbra Streisand in the 1968 movie before Smith came along. It’s worth giving her a few more though because, frankly, she’s extraordinary. She’s been rightly highly praised for her recent TV appearance in the BBC’s Shannon Matthews kidnap drama The Moorside but, as even her early performance in the 2010 West End hit Legally Blonde attested, it’s in the greasepaint and glamour of live theatre where this instinctive comedian truly dazzles.

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