Of course I had heard of Funny Girl, but not yet familiarised myself with the film, so I was open-minded and unbiased in my night out at the Theatre Royal to go and watch it. My sister had seen the film but I asked her not to tell me anything.
As soon as the orchestra starts up, you know you are in for a feel good production of musical theatre.
Funny Girl tells the story of Fanny Brice (Natasha J Barnes) who is not the best looking girl to grace the stage and she knows it, but she is funny and would rather entertain people with giggles than glamour. Her stage presence catches the eye of theatre impresario Florenz Ziegfeld (Nigel Barber), who invites her to join the Ziegfeld Follies which is where she hits the big time.
Fanny falls for the suave, handsome and charming Nicky Arnstein (Darius Campbell) and chooses love (and married life) over the stage for a short while, but the stage is where she feels at her best so she soon returns. Nicky is always chasing the next pot of gold which leads to him losing everything he worked for, Fanny tries to help him out by opening her cheque book, but it threatens his masculinity and his marriage, ultimately ending with him in jail for fraud.
Ever the funny girl, Fanny carries on regardless, wiping her tears and making people laugh to mask her pain.
I got more and more into this production as each moment and each musical number passed, it was delightfully flamboyant, deliciously camp and just a visual and audible treat.
Natasha J Barnes was more than a ‘triple threat’ on stage, she has a beautiful singing voice, can dance with the rest of them and act her bloomers off, but she also has impeccable comic timing and had everyone laughing and relating to the ‘normal’ funny girl. A couple of times she ‘corpsed’ on stage, but I couldn’t tell if it was part of the act or if it really was a genuine lapse in character, it all just fit in so well. From falling moustache’s to her perfectly timed reaction to sitting on Darius’ knee, you couldn’t help but laugh…not at her, with her.
Darius was well suited to the role of smooth and confident Nicky, and gave us a real treat with his silky voice, belting out the musical numbers, his cocky move of throwing (fake) money into the audience was a big hit – I even got $100! – not a bribe I promise.
Natasha is simply amazing on stage, she completely mesmerises everyone and commands your attention from the opening scene. She fully deserved the standing ovation she got at the end which visibly moved and overwhelmed her – a true star.
I left the show with a huge smile and singing ‘Don’t Rain on my Parade’.
If you are a fan of musical theatre but have not yet seen this, I urge you to get your ticket and go and see the ‘Greatest Star’ Natasha J Barnes playing our Funny Girl.
Broadway comes to Nottingham until the 17th June – don’t miss it!