The name on everyone’s lips is going to be Natasha J Barnes judging by the exceptional performance she delivered at the wonderful Wolverhampton Grand last night. Stepping out as funny girl, Fanny Brice, Barnes was beyond stunning in the role. Her characterisation was sublime; her acting a delight and her voice was something other worldly. Her crisp, warm vocals sent shivers down the spine and she well and truly held the audience in the palm of her hand. You laughed with her, you cried with her and that is testament to her excellent performance. At the end as she held back tears as the crowd clambered to their feet, it was so incredibly clear why she took the West End by storm when she stepped into the role that Sheridan Smith had been lauded for.
Funny Girl is undoubtedly a joyous show, yet manages to retain its integrity with a heart-wrenching storyline. With a rich score, the perennial favourites were delivered exquisitely. From People to I’m The Greatest Star and the Act One closer, Don’t Rain On My Parade, each number gloriously filled the auditorium. Although this show is very much held together by the sheer magnitude of Barnes’s performance, the rest of the cast are undoubtedly the glue that brings this show together.
Darius Campbell’s velvety tones suit the suave Nick Arnstein and his onstage chemistry with Barnes is palpable. A particular highlight was their playful duet You Are Woman, I Am Man, which contrasted well with their touching rendition of Who Are You Now? Great support came from Nova Skipp as Mrs Brice, who played well against the lovely Joshua Lay as Eddie. His impeccable dancing was a joy to watch and his unrequited love for Fanny Brice is beautifully evoked. The ensemble ooze an energy that makes this show so watchable and quite simply, Funny Girl is a hit.
Musical Director Ben Van Tienan led the orchestra with unswerving prowess, his enthusiasm shone from the pit and the music was simply divine. Under the direction of Michael Mayer, Funny Girl is a show brimming with heart and led by a star.
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