Hilarious, heart-warming and uplifting are just a few of the ways that you could describe the performance of Funny Girl at Norwich Theatre Royal. From the moment the cast appeared on stage, right until the well deserved standing ovation, they captured the hearts, imaginations and emotions of the audience. Funny Girl tells the story of Broadway star Fanny Brice. Set in New York around World War one it chronicles her rise to fame from humble beginnings. During her path to success she meets the devilishly handsome Nick Arnstein who brings out a whole new side to her, but will it be for the best?
Natasha J Barnes’ portrayal of Fanny Brice was outstanding, she went above and beyond anything I’ve ever seen. Every word she sang and every move she made was done with such conviction and emotion. It was the smallest of details that really elevated her performance. Sometimes it was the look in her eyes, her mannerisms or the defiance in her voice. I could feel her grit, determination, sorrow and joy throughout. She instantly became a friend who I felt the need to protect. I wanted to shake her, hug her and at times cry along with her. In spite of the societal differences between then and now, Barnes turned Brice into someone who was a little bit like all of us. Whether it was through her uncoordinated dancing, honest narrative or depiction of falling in love. I’m certain that she portrayed a little bit of everyone in the audience.
Whilst Barnes was undoubtedly the star of the show, the chemistry between the rest of the characters and the portrayal of their relationships also shone through. The sense of love, admiration, jealousy and competitiveness was easily relatable to relationships today. Perhaps it was this that was one of the key to success of the whole performance. The chemistry between Brice and Arnstein (played by local lad Tom Partridge in this performance) was so turbulent and gripping. When they were in love you believed it and as the began to fall out of it you really felt it. The audience was close to tears by the end of the performance.
A special mention has to go to the choreography and costumes. The choreography was simply stunning. At times I felt as if I were transported back to the dazzling era of old hollywood showgirls. Eddie Ryan (played by Joshua Lay) tap dance solo was mesmerising. I couldn’t look away or work out how he managed to coordinated both his limbs moving at the speed of light with his well-timed and rather cheeky facial expressions. I fell in love with the costumes too, in fact I would have quite happily added a few straight into my wardrobe! The way the moved on stage was mesmerising to a fashion lover like me.
This performance of Funny Girl at Norwich Theatre Royal was simply outstanding. The musical is well deserved of all of the hype surrounding it. I don’t think I’ve ever been so invested in a storyline or characters journey before. It was a real emotional rollercoaster, but thanks to the big band soundtrack and execution of the performance as a whole it was uplifting. There was a real buzz in the air by the end of the night. The audience were genuinely compelled to rise to their feet as the cast took their bows. Hands down this is one of the best and funniest pieces of theatre that I’ve ever seen. If you get chance to go and see Funny Girl, I implore you to; you will not be disappointed.
Funny Girl at Norwich Theatre Royal runs until Saturday 1st July 2017, before continuing on its UK tour. You can buy tickets for the Norwich shows here and you can read the rest of my theatre reviews here.
Photos by Johan Persson