Sheridan Smith is a funny, Funny Girl. We were privileged to see her last weekend in the new stage production of that name (Funny Girl, not Sheridan Smith), which finishes its run at the Menier Chocolate Factory in London Bridge this weekend. Easily one of the best and most fun shows we’ve seen.
From the moment Fanny Brice whispered, “Hello, gorgeous,” to her reflection in her dressing-room mirror, we were enthralled, entranced, entertained, moved, captivated, delighted.
Sheridan Smith, a beautiful and skilful comic actress, brings so much charm and wit to the role of Fanny, the ugly-duckling-turned-Ziegfeld-Follies-star. We laughed and cried with her as she sang and one-lined her way to stardom and into heartbreak in the arms of Darius Campbell’s smooth, debonair Nicky Arnstein.
The staging was inventive. The musical direction and all those familiar numbers sublime. Sheridan balanced comic timing with emotion, taking us from awkward squirming out of Nicky Arnstein’s advances in You Are Woman, I am Man to the passionate delivery of People and her poignant, rousing Don’t Rain on My Parade. She carried the adoring audience – and her enthusiastic cast of singers and dancers – along on her every note.
The ambience and intimacy of the 150-seater theatre make it an experience unlike any other. Built as a five-storey factory and warehouse for the French Menier Chocolate Company when they expanded overseas between 1865 and 1874, the building opened in 2004 in its current incarnation. According to the website:
“Throughout its history, the Menier Chocolate Factory building has been inspired by both individuality and the pursuit of quality. […] the Chocolate Factory is a stimulating environment to enjoy a high-quality and entertaining theatrical experience.”
“There’s nowhere quite like the Chocolate Factory anywhere … The bubbliest kid on the block, and one of London’s great theatre hopes.”
The Daily Telegraph
It is an extraordinary, beautiful space. It was a privilege to sit in the second row and feel involved in every song and dance routine before us. We’d seen Kyle Riabko’s astounding and beautifully crafted What’s it all about: Bacharach re-imagined there in July last year, before it too moved to a bigger West End theatre.
A friend once ran out of superlatives as she described a new book. She eventually just said, “Don’t ever not read this book.” I feel the same way about Funny Girl, and Sheridan Smith.
Our red box is richer for these tickets, as are we for the joy of watching Funny Girl. It’s moving to the Savoy Theatre in the West End in April and, who knows, maybe Broadway next. Don’t ever not see this show. Or Sheridan Smith.
Sunshine in London signing off for today!