The lyrics have rarely matched the action so accurately as in Natasha J Barnes portrayal of Fanny Brice in this touring production of Funny Girl at Norwich Theatre Royal: she has her “eye on the target” all the way through, and boy does she keep hitting bullseye.
She takes the role made famous by Barbara Streisand and makes it her own, with delectable comic timing, assured dance, and a belter of a voice all earning her an unquestioned standing ovation on the first night of the show’s Norwich residency.
There’s very little to rain on her parade elsewhere, in this sparkling and confident production. The absence of leading man Darius Campbell – out with a back injury – was barely noticed, with company member and local lad Tom Partridge seamlessly stepping up; a long way from his childhood appearances in the Theatre Royal panto.
Joshua Lay as Fanny’s put-upon devotee Eddie Ryan is immaculate in his dance, impressing with everything from cartwheels to tap. Rachel Izen’s Mrs Brice is a great, brooding, Jewish matron: wise and playful at the same time.
Along with the rest of the company they benefit massively from Lynne Page’s brilliant choreography, which is particularly strong in the busy but fabulously detailed Henry Street and Sadie, Sadie numbers, with the whole ensemble working hard. They are a joy to watch, right across the stage.
Ben Van Tienen’s orchestra are punchy and on point, and while there were a couple of scene change stumbles Michael Pavelka’s set is generally well considered, making interesting use of reflective flats in the wings. Matthew Wright’s elegant costumes, bring the exuberance and dazzle of the 1920s vividly to life.
The real heartbeat though is Barnes who, like the real-life Fanny Brice, seems likely to stop at nothing to get a laugh but can handle the serious as superbly as the surreal. She has the presence and talent to wilt the hardest hearts, and deserves a packed out auditorium for the rest of the run.