Hit musical tour Funny Girl at New Victoria Theatre in Woking – review

Funny Girl ensemble (Photo: Paul Coltas)

Funny Girl ensemble (Photo: Paul Coltas) - Credit: Archant

After a slow start to a show shrouded in controversy during its West End run, Funny Girl proves to be a bit of a belter, says Rebecca Younger

Natasha J Barnes as Fanny Brice (Photo: Manuel Harlan)

Natasha J Barnes as Fanny Brice (Photo: Manuel Harlan) - Credit: Archant

What? Funny Girl

Where? New Victoria Theatre, Woking

When? Monday April 24 to Saturday April 29

Verdict? 3/5

Darius Campbell as Nick Arnstein (Photo: Manuel Harlan)

Darius Campbell as Nick Arnstein (Photo: Manuel Harlan) - Credit: Archant

REVIEW: Anyone who reads national newspapers will be well aware of the 50th anniversary theatre adaption of Funny Girl, not just because of the critical hype about the show but because of the controversy surrounding its first few months in the West End, when leading lady Sherdian Smith pulled out of a number of performances amid reports she was suffering from exhaustion.

A year later and now touring the UK, the show, directed by Michael Mayer, made a pit stop at New Victoria Theatre in Woking this week with a cast led by Natasha J Barnes and Darius Campbell.

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Funny Girl brought global fame to Barbra Streisand 50 years ago and tells the true story of Fanny Brice, whose vocal talents and comedic ability saw her rise from a Brooklyn music hall singer to Broadway star in the early part of the 20th century.

I had neither seen the 1968 film starring Streisand, nor knew of Brice’s story so went into the theatre with no pre-conceptions.

Act One had a slow start, I failed to warm to Barnes’ portrayal of Fanny (and indeed the character) and her Brooklyn tones, while a good reflection of the accent, grated on me.

When she sang however, it was an entirely different matter. Ending the first half with an outstanding rendition of Don’t Rain on My Parade, Barnes really raised the roof. By the end of the act, I still wasn’t entirely sure where the story was heading but felt I should applaud with conviction, if only in praise of a good set of lungs.

Returning for the second act, my admiration for Barnes, and the character of Fanny, grew. Some laugh-out-loud performances from the ensemble cast helped boost my spirits and I began to feel a real emotional connection with the story and its portrayal of a woman, stuck in a continuous battle between her career and the desire to be with and support her doting husband, Nick Arnstein.

Campbell fulfilled the role of Nick well, although it was undoubtedly Barnes who stole the show. Her performance was deservedly rewarded with a standing ovation and the sight of a few tears running down her cheeks as she bowed to the audience proved she really did put her heart and soul into it and that’s always something worth seeing.

• New Victoria Theatre, Peacocks Centre, Woking, Surrey GU21 6GQ. For information about upcoming shows or to buy tickets, call 0844 871 7645 or visit atgtickets.com/woking.