Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

A new Funny Girl ...

50 years after the original 1964 Broadway (and London in 1966) production of FUNNY GIRL, there is finally a new major production. It is currently rehearsing at the London Menier Chocolate Factory, a nice small theatre with cafe and bar (I was there earlier this year for Sondheim's ASSASSINS), so I wondered how they could stage this show with those big production numbers. Well it seems they are not ....
Funny Girl in 1966

In fact it may not be the same show at all. I have to declare an interest here - I saw the Broadway version when it played several months in London at the Prince Charles Theatre in 1966. I was 20 and somehow we got front row seats, and the young Streisand was the talk of the town.  It was the first big show I saw on stage and I was a total Streisand nut then ..... Michael Craig was her Nicky Arnstein (left, with Streisand)
There have been other out of town productions since but no major London production, as presumably Streisand had made the part of Fanny Brice so much her own, particularly after the success of the William Wyler film in 1968. (We will kindly overlook FUNNY LADY).

So now we have a new FUNNY GIRL heading into town, it is already sold out at the Menier, but is transferring to The Savoy next April - where that current revival of GYPSY is still playing until later this month - Imelda will need a holiday after that! Sheridan Smith is the new Fanny - we like Sheridan a lot, one of our National Treasures in waiting, she played the young Cilla Black to great acclaim on television this year and has been in lots of successful series since she began as Antony's vegetarian girlfriend in THE ROYLE FAMILY and her hilarious Brandy in BENIDORM. She was a knockout on stage in Terence Rattigan's FLARE PATH a few years ago, and I also saw her in LEGALLY BLONDE - and she has also played (a younger than usual) HEDDA GABLER and Shakespeare's Tatiana on stage - but can she be Fanny Brice?

Fanny was an odd-looking Jewish woman, and one could say young Barbra also was though she re-defined beauty with her amazing looks. Sheridan is British, blonde and beautiful. Darius Campbell should be a good foil as her Nicky. It seems though the show is being overhauled for the new generation - it is 50 years later after all. Isobel Lennart's book has been revised by actor and writer Harvey Fierstein who has said "It had stuff in it that wasn't necessary any more for a modern audience". He has cut 40 pages from the script, a couple of songs have been dropped and others used. (I hope they still keep Barbra's final number "The Music That Makes Me Dance" which was electrifying on the stage, but was replaced with "My Man" for the film). It seems, according to The Daily Mail, that the new show will focus on Fanny and Nicky's troubled marriage, at the expense of Fanny's career - so there are no Ziegfield Follies numbers or showgirls. 

Fierstein says he has re-shaped the show so its all seen through Brice's eyes. "Its not Ziegfield Follies with 500ft staircases and 60 girls in white ostrich feathers. Hopefully, we can find the human being in the legend.". 
The Menier and The Savoy in a joint statement says: “It's enormously exciting to be bringing this legendary musical back to the West End for the first time since 1966, in a brand new production starring the incredible Sheridan Smith. We are also thrilled to have the opportunity to work with the hugely gifted, multi-award winning Broadway director Michael Mayer.”
Can a great musical be stripped down and made over for a new generation fifty years later? Well, we will see.

1 comment:

  1. Its hard to see how they can made Funny Girl more modern - like Gypsy it is set in a specific time and era,the vaudeville and burlesque of the twenties and thirties, when Fanny Brice was a star.