Monday, April 10, 2023

Musical Revivals I: Funny Girl and Dancin’

Lea Michele in Funny Girl. (Photo: Matthew Murphy)

The Broadway revival of Funny Girl is a hit, but its path has been slippery. Michael Mayer’s production started in London, opening at the Meunier Chocolate Factory in 2016 with Sheridan Smith. But when it transferred to the Savoy Theatre in the West End, Smith dropped out due to stress and exhaustion and was replaced by her understudy, Natasha Barnes. That’s when I caught it, and without a luminous Fanny Brice to anchor the musical that made Barbra Streisand famous – and vice-versa – it wasn’t much. The modesty of the staging and designs was just over the line from looking seedy, and since the cast was so small, the supporting players as well as the chorus had to join in the dances that bridged – somewhat desperately – the many scenes, Funny Girl being a representative of the last successful decade of large-scale Broadway musicals.