There were no boos, no heckling, but when the audience at Bradford Alhambra’s were told that Sheridan Smith had been forced to pull out due to mumps the sense of disappointment was audible. Natasha Barnes, who stepped into her shoes, no doubt heard it too.
Still as Fanny Brice would have said, the show must go on. And so it did. Barnes has been sharing the role of Brice, the kooky singer, actress and comedian, who ruled Broadway from the 1920s to 40s, and she soon made the audience at Bradford forget they should have been watching Smith.
So too did Darius Campbell. Yes that Darius Campbell, the one whose version of Britney Spears’ Hit Me Baby One More Time during auditions for Popstars will be forever seared on our memory. In the intervening years, Campbell has grown into a genuine musical star and here he plays the charming, but deeply flawed Nick Arnstein who gambles with everything, including Fanny’s unconditional love, beautifully.
There is a problem with the show though that the cast can do nothing about. The idea that Brice was somehow responsible for Arnstein’s fall from grace by making him feel a kept man is an uncomfortable fit in the 21st century and isn’t entirely saved by a belting rendition of Don’t Rain On My Parade.
That aside this production has charm and wit by the bucket-load and as Barnes received a standing ovation she was visibly emotional. It might have been tough stepping out in front of a crowd who really wanted someone else, but to quote Darius of old, ‘there was a lot of love in the room’ for a bone fide Funny Girl.
To June 10.