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It has been announced that Sheridan Smith will be taking a break of between two and four weeks from the West End transfer of the 1964 hit Broadway musical Funny Girl. The show opened at the Savoy Theatre on 20 April 2016 following previews from 9 April, and is running until 8 October 2016. The production transferred from the Menier Chocolate Factory, where the run sold out.
The producers have released the following statement:
"Natasha J Barnes plays the role of Fanny Brice in Funny Girl at the Savoy Theatre for a short period whilst Sheridan Smith takes 2 - 4 weeks leave of absence from the production due to stress and exhaustion. Barnes played the role for the completion of the run at the Menier Chocolate Factory, and again this week at the Savoy - her performance receiving plaudits from audiences and critics alike."
The statement went on to say: "The entire team at Funny Girl is thinking of Sheridan, and know she is getting the rest and support she needs during this very difficult and stressful time. We will all miss her enormously and send her our love and best wishes - and look forward to her return to the show in due course."
The show opened to very good reviews from the popular press: "The jewel at the heart of this production is Smith...she belts her way through triumph and disaster with such full-hearted charm that you can only surrender to it" (Telegraph); "Sheridan Smith triumphantly reinvents Brice for a new generation of musical theatre lovers, conveying with skill and heart this entertainer’s emotive blend of professional success and personal vulnerability" (Evening Standard).
Our critic, Mark Shenton, awarded the show 5 stars, saying: "Michael Mayer's loving production ensures it is not merely a solo vehicle for Smith, but also a fully integrated show that has some great chorus numbers."
Featuring a score by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill, book by Isobel Lennart, this production features a revised book by Harvey Fierstein. It marks the first London production since the 1966 original which ran at the Prince of Wales Theatre starring Barbra Streisand. Directed by Michael Mayer, it features set design by Michael Pavelka, choreography by Lynne Page, lighting design by Mark Henderson and sound design by Richard Brooker.
The cast also includes Darius Campbell (Nicky Arnstein), Marilyn Cutts (Mrs Brice), Maurice Lane (Mr Keeney), Valda Aviks (Mrs Meeker), Gay Soper (Mrs Strakosh), Bruce Montague (Florenz Ziegfeld) and Joel Montague (Eddie Ryan).
The iconic musical charts the life of Fanny Brice, who rose from the Lower East Side of New York to become one of Broadway's biggest stars under producer Florenz Ziegfield. While she was cheered onstage as a great comedienne, offstage she faced a doomed relationship with the man she loved. Jule Styne's score features the classic songs "People", "You Are Woman, I Am Man" and "Don't Rain on My Parade".
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