BWW Review: FUNNY GIRL, Théâtre Marigny, Paris
The feeling you don't fit the mould that society expects, is a feeling familiar to most of us in our lives at some point or another. Perhaps that is what makes Funny Girl endure and continue to pack out theatres.
The story of the somewhat mis-fit Fanny Brice finding fame and fortune on Broadway against the social norms of beauty and stardom still appeals to those who have ever felt on the other side of the fence.
It helps of course that this musical packs in a powerhouse tunes that even people who would claim not to know any songs from the show, would begrudgingly admit they had indeed heard "Don't Rain on My Parade" at least once before.
In an amusingly perfect bit of casting, Christina Bianco takes on the formidable Fanny Brice in this latest production. Her own antics and impersonations on YouTube that have gained her millions upon millions of views, are put to perfect use as the jovial troublemaker Brice.
It's a role that's been performed by giants of the theatre world. It has some of the most recognisable songs in the musical theatre cannon, yet Bianco finds her own voice in a memorable performance. Note perfect, she is every inch the leading lady. "People" brings the house down, as it should.
In the West End, Ashley Day's star has been rising for some time and here he takes on the charming yet flawed Nick Arnstein. Day manages to find the charm that makes him appeal without touching too much smarminess. You need to believe Fanny could fall for him despite his weaknesses. With Day, you do.
The Parisian audience are certainly laughing throughout. The French surtitles have the bizarre effect of providing both delayed laughs and preemptive ones, depending on how the text falls. Everyone is on the same page though when it is Bianco's formidable clowning generating the laughs.
The glitz and the glamour of the Follies may be long gone but in Paris, it is still alive in this production at least. The ensemble commit to every kick and flick with confidence. Stephen Mear directs with obvious nods to his dance background and the result is a sumptuous one- the Follies numbers feel full bodied and alive.
The production is not without its quieter moments and Mear lets those moments have space. The final reconciliation between Brice and Arnstein is beautifully played by Day and Bianco. Judging by this production, there won't be any rain on the Funny Girl parade for some time yet.
Photo credit: Julien Benhamou