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Funny Girl - Fantastic & Thank God For Doctors!
Phil Hopkins, Theatre & Travel Correspondent
Natasha J Barnes - photo Paul Coltas
Sometimes it is the rarest of things that make a theatrical light burn brighter. For Florenz Zeigfeld it was the Dancing Ducks of Denmark, for Natasha J Barnes, mumps!

Last night as hordes of star gazers crammed into Bradford's Alhambra eager to see Sheridan Smith as Fanny Brice in the stage version of Barbara Streisand's famous movie, Funny Girl, they were told that the three times BAFTA nominated actress was being treated for the dreaded mumps.

Natasha J Barnes and Darius Campbell - photo Paul Coltas
But it was to everyone's advantage because it gave Natasha J. Barnes the chance to shine brighter than a supernova. She was magnificent and stole the show. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.

I found myself smiling, laughing, weeping and totally engaged by Miss Barnes' superb performance, as the quirky oddball, Fanny Brice, so insecure about her looks that she gurned and lampooned her way across America, eventually becoming the highest paid woman on Broadway earning $3,000 a week in the early 1920's. An absolute fortune.

The only criticism I have is of myself, for almost failing to make opening curtain en-route back from Nottingham. My memory of the Streisand show was, at best, hazy and, in truth, it never landed in my sub conscious the way so many other musicals did; Gigi, West Side Story, Hello Dolly, 42nd Street.
How can that be because this was such a refreshing, dynamic show?

It was from the same stable that gave us musicals like Guys and Dolls and Gypsy and, at times, you might have been forgiven for thinking that it was a slice of the latter; a slightly overbearing but lovable Jewish mother, played beautifully by Rachel Izen, with lots of OTT Yiddish cameos which added a blaze of colour to the show, Myra Sands as Mrs Strakosh and Zoe Ann Bown as Mrs Meeker.

Natasha J Barnes and Ensemble - photo Paul Coltas
TV heartthrob, Darius Campbell, he of Popstar to Operastar fame, was the love interest as Fanny's first husband, gambler Nick Arnstein, and his towering 6ft 4" frame inadvertently provided its own comedy value as he towered over Miss Barnes! It is no surprise that he has appeared in many archetypal leading man roles, and the 'Ooh, he's alright' from the lady in front, confirmed my thinking!

Also by Phil Hopkins...
NT's Strong Feminist Theme - Jane Eyre
Buddy - Still Bopping A Quarter Of A Century On
Barbershop Chronicles - A Cut Above
Fizzy Fun For A Dreary Day
A Season For All Men
Funny Girl tells the story of Fania Borach, born in the US in 1891 to Hungarian immigrants. Her personality more than made up for her less than ordinary looks but, as an insecure woman, she spent a lifetime lampooning herself and, ironically, it was that comedy, driven by her own self-doubts, that made her a comedy great.

The show features that classic torch song, Don't Rain on my Parade, and Natasha belted it out to perfection. It is rare that I stand to my feet, other than to get a view over the heads of those in front who so often rise at the end of a show to applaud mediocrity. Last night I stood of my own free will and clapped a great performance. The ovation was well deserved and Miss Barnes' tears were tears of relief because delivering a performance from the soul takes every ounce of your insides. She did.

An absolute must see. Brilliant!

Oh, and in case you're wondering, not very PC but the dancing ducks were part of Zeigfeld's Barnum style revue show and only danced because of the gas flames beneath their feet!

Bradford Alhambra
Until Saturday
Evening & Matinee Performances

Funny Girl - Fantastic & Thank God For Doctors!, 8th June 2017, 14:47 PM