If audience adoration was sunshine Sheridan Smith would be assured it would never, ever rain on her parade. The affection for this multi-talented actress demonstrated by the long and loud standing ovation from the sell-out audience seemed to take her back, it certainly surprised me as I hadn’t realized what a huge star she has become.
I say that as someone who has followed her career and never feared the raised eyebrows from the luvvies if I mentioned how much I enjoyed her cheeky rascal role in TV’s Benidorm as much as the more “serious” roles that seem to have won over the “serious” brigade.
It is a shame, but true, that this show belongs totally to her and I pity the understudies and actresses taking over the role as, in the same way some said Barbra Streisand was untouchable in the role of Fanny Brice, I would now say the same of Sheridan Smith.
While the Streisand performance of the smart, sassy, plain, Jewish, Brooklyn girl with the inexplicable self-confidence to become a Ziegfeld Follies star and darling of the nation remains iconic in its own way, it is now hard to imagine a more captivating, genuinely funny and heartbreaking take on the role than Sheridan Smith in this Michael Mayer’s top quality production.
That top quality includes a quite sensational cast with every role perfect. Darius Campbell was a towering and very dapper chap as her handsome if rather feckless husband Nicky Arnstein, who cannot cope with being the unsuccessful member of the relationship, dependent on his wife’s earning, and turns to fraud to try to make some money of his own.
Joshua Lay was adorable as Eddie Ryan, the self-effacing, hugely supportive, friend and mentor and unrequited torch-bearer for the rising star while Rachel Izen was warm and witty as Fanny’s non nonsense, sensible but loving mother with great support from Zoe Ann Bown, Myra Sands and Mrs Strakosh. Nigel Barber played a nicely balanced Florenz Ziegfeld as he too come sunder Fanny’s genuine homely charms. However, all of the other roles were splendidly taken by talented, and very good-looking, actors and actresses, particularly the dancing lads and lassies.
Rachel Izen and Joshua Lay
Vocally Sheridan is not a Streisand but she has more sensitivity and pathos in those well-known songs such as the showstopper People and lesser known intimate numbers that show her inner demons and insecurities.
The key message from the portrayal of Fanny Brice is that she was a girl who wanted people to laugh with her, not at her, and that shines through in every sketch she makes her own, epitomized by the Follies’ routines where she is told to appear as a plain girl in a glamour outfit to be adored by men (to be laughed at) but instead stuffs a cushion up her dress and makes it an ironic statement of women who have BEEN adored by men.
The dance routines are great, the costumes gorgeous, the humour genuine and the acting excellent. While the musical itself is not perfect, the second half is weaker than the first and there is not enough meat for the an actor playing the emasculated husband to get his teeth into, but these concerns are swept away with the strength of these performances.
I don’t think you can get a ticket as the week is sold out but if you can grab it with both hands.
Here’s a little treat: