After huge success in the West End, Funny Girl opens at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre this week during its extensive UK Tour, to tell the story of the young comic Fanny Brice who despite achieving triumph in her career, falls in love and puts her career on hold to pursue her head-over-heels romance with Nick Arnstein.
Taking on the role of Fanny Brice is Natasha J Barnes, who is the ultimate triple threat. With absolutely remarkably powerful vocals, hilariously witty characterisation and faultless stage presence, her strengths are undeniable. With exceptional comedy timing, she masters the pace of the role creating an abundance of effortless humour. Barnes’ performance is spot on, and her big number at the end of act 1, Don’t Rain On My Parade puts the theatre in musical theatre – it’s vocally outstanding and bursting with passion and heart.
The comic Jewish girl Fanny has a natural confidence, despite being scrutinised for not having a slim figure and beautiful look. However, her admirable determination shows she won’t take no for an answer, and this ambition is portrayed through the animated musical number I’m The Greatest Star.
At the peak of her career, sought after bachelor Nick Arnstein arrives in Fanny’s life. Darius Campbell, the pop-idol heart-throb of the early 2000s takes on the role of Arnstein and is superb as the mysteriously charming playboy that sweet talks Fanny into being with him. Campbell completely captures the charisma of the role, particularly in his musical number I Want To Be Seen With You Tonight.
Funny Girl has all the components of an iconic musical theatre extravaganza. Despite it being a legit musical that first opened in 1964, the creative team have done an exceptional job at making it feel like it was created yesterday. The set boasts all the glitz and glamour with its decadent dressings, as the stage is framed with mirrors which create a lot of texture in the performance. This is enhanced by the Wolverhampton Grand’s beautifully elegant theatre, it is almost like the audience are actually sat there watching the Ziegfeld Follies in the era, giving the performance a real feeling of authenticity.
Aside from the infectious musical numbers between Fanny and Nick such as People and You Are Woman I am Man, the ensemble really bring colour and energy to the production, giving it the sparkle that makes it such a magnificent musical. Whether it’s tap dancing, ballet or showgirls, they perform every number impeccably and with a vibrant expression.
Funny Girl exudes every element of classic musical theatre with its grand production, timeless musical numbers and the shining star that is Natasha J Barnes.