Tag Archives: Matthew Wright

Funny Girl

reviewed in Southend on 19 June (preview)

An old theatrical cliché has the understudy taking over from the leading lady and stealing the show. Natasha J Barnes is not precisely an understudy – she alternated with Sheridan Smith during the London run of this musical version of the Fanny Brice story, and won plaudits – but the audience in Southend knows a superb performance when one is placed before it, and responded.

Barnes inhabits the role completely, both physically and psychologically. Her face becomes that of a woman who found out the hard way when still a young girl that she was never going to be pretty. So she compensated by developing her comedy talents, controlling and turning mockery into applause. I imagine that many a court jester developed the same carapace. While Barnes shows us this feisty side of Brice, she also makes the woman’s vulnerability clear.

This is particularly noticeable in her scenes with Darius Campbell’s Nick Arnstein, the suave gambler and con man who sweeps her into a marriage in which he demands freedom and she cannot give it wholeheartedly. Both sing well and make Bob Merrill’s lyrics and Jule Styne’s score an integral part of Michael Meyer’s production. There are also a very good performance from Joshua Lay as Eddie Ryan, who helps Fanny through an almost unspoken love for her.

Myra Sands, Zoë Ann Bown and Rachel Izen make a marvellous trio of New York Jewish ladies of a certain age and there a good cameos by Michael Callaghan as Mr Keeney and Nigel Barber as impressario Ziegfeld. The dancers are versatile and show off Lynne Page’s choreography as well as Matthew Wright’s quick-change costumes. Michael Pavelka’s asymmetrical set frames it all splendidly with Mark Henderson’s lighting and projections adding place and time.

Four and a half-star rating.

Funny Girl runs at the Cliffs Pavilion, Southend until 24 June with matinées on 21 and 24 June. It is also at the Theatre Royal, Norwich between 26 June and 1 July.

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Filed under Music Music theatre & Opera, Reviews 2017

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

(reviewed at the Theatre Royal, Norwich on 14 November)

Forget the sanitised 1961 film with Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly and Mickey Rooney as Mr Yunioshi – this Richard Greenberg stage adaptation sticks far more closely to the nucleus of Truman Capote’s novel. It’s briskly directed by Nicolai Foster with a clever set by Matthew Wright, whose costumes allow for a number of rapid changes.

Matt Barber as struggling writer Fred, perched in an attic bedsitter carved out of a decaying brownstone mansion, gives a fine performance of a young man finding his feet in the Big City while discovering that actual jobs as well as literary patronage come with a price tag. Holly is Georgia May Foote, hurling through her lines with the same speed as the girl she portrays whisks from one potential (and wealthy) suitor to another. She singings “Moon River” charmingly.

It’s a production well endowed with character studies, sketched in with a lightning and blistering pen. Robert Calvert’s Doc, who comes to New York to retrieve his long-vanished bride, Melanie La Barrie and Katy Allen as a brace of fading poseuses, Andrew Joshi as Yunioshi and Charlie de Melo as Brazialian playboy with presidential aspirations are are excellent.

Put a live animal in any live show – play, musical, opera or ballet – and a British audience can be guaanteed to focus attention on it. Here we have the most laid-back of white longhaired cats, Bob, who takes it all in his stide or, more accurately, eye-commanding meander acoss the stage. He really should have taken a curtain-call.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s runs as the Theatre Royal, Norwich until 19 Devember with matinées on 16 and 19 November.

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Filed under Plays, Reviews 2016