Thursday, 4 May 2017

Funny Girl

Funny Girl was lovely, charming, brilliant and of course funny.

The Show
I really love going to theatre but I usually only manage it once a year as it is very difficult for me. I therefore really try to choose something I think I will enjoy so as to not to waste my energy. The last few years have been shows I've enjoyed but not lived up to my expectations. This year I chose to see the Funny Girl tour at Woking Theatre. I was happy with my choice as I wasn't overly familiar with the film so I would not be constantly comparing the story, and although it is a musical and would be loud, the music would be beautiful rather than lots of drum and base. Another plus is that it would not be full of bright flashing lights. Natasha J Barnes led the cast. She was rarely off stage and her voice was the centre piece for the majority of the songs. The songs are not easy, and not once did she falter or tire. Every spoken or sung word and every movement was 'on point', fresh and energised. I was enjoying the performance but was not really wowed until her rendition of 'People'. Up to this point she had been funny and charming but when she sang 'People' she sent shivers down my spine. Her voice was strong and full of emotion. I felt the whole audience captivated around me. I am always very aware I am at the theatre because of high pain and fatigue but her portrayal of Fanny Price in this song briefly took me out of my body, out of the theatre and into the character, into the story. After this there were of course lots of similarly brilliant songs, especially 'Don't Rain on My Parade'. In fact she was so good I was worried when she did a powerful duet with her leading man, Darius Campbell, he would be drowned out but their voices blended beautifully. Campbell, you may remember his popular single Colourblind, made the role of Nick Arnstein his own. I recall from the film Omar Sherif portraying him with a harder, scarier side when he flipped. In the film he was a much more of a jackal and hide character, which probably fits better with the real life crook that was Nick Arnstein. However, I enjoyed a more complex characterisation. Even when Campbell's character was angry and behaving badly, he had an element of emotional angst about him. He was a smoothie, a manipulator, a man with a massive chip on his shoulder but amongst all of this was softer caring side towards Fanny. Campbell's portrayal of Arnstein did seem to feel ashamed of the pain he caused Barnes' Fanny Brice. It made for an interesting dynamic and I don't think there is anything wrong with changing the characterisation a little, even if the real life person was probably not as caring, because in essence the story was unchanged.

I have focused on the protagonists in this review, purely because they were on stage such a lot but the rest of cast were also fantastic. They created a slick and enjoyable show that I highly recommend!

A note on the accessibility
I still get frustrated that most theatres and venues do not have the availability to book online for disabled seats. I appreciate that each disability is different but once your needs have been established for most people it would be pretty easy to pick the disabled seats online. The problem with booking over the phone is that I really struggle with phone calls so someone else always has to do that for me and of course you cannot see where the seats are over the phone. The most frustrating thing is having to use a premium rate line, which can quickly cost the caller a lot of money. Woking Theatre's website directs you to a premium line, but after a bit of internet detective work I found the local box office number: 01483 545 900. My mum booked our tickets via this and it was not a problem.

I believe they offer quite a good discount for disabled patrons and their carers but I am not sure what this deal is because they gave us the disabled rate to start with and we didn't catch what the operator said the original price was. but we got a great price and paid £37.50 for two good seats in the Royal Circle (I checked online and the row in front of us was listed at just under £100 for two seats). So although I can't help you work out the price of future productions you will get good seats at a fantastic price.

The New Victoria Theatre in Woking is one of the easier theatres to navigate when in a wheelchair. You can use the normal entrances like everybody else, no back entrances with rickety ledges and ramps or doors that that have to be opened especially for you here! The disabled loo is a little more tricky as you have go through heavy doors into the cinema area to access them. The usher on the door into the Royal Circle was helpful and friendly and talked to me rather than my mum (carer) which is usually the case. We had seats in a specific wheelchair row where seats could be taken out for those staying their wheelchair. As I was transferring out we had two seats at the end of the row and my wheelchair was stored nearby (yes, health and safety of everyone else) during the production but bought back to me in the interval and just before the show finished.

There are still tickets available for the tour at various venues staring either Natasha J Barnes or Sheridan Smith into August 2017.

All in all it was a lovely birthday treat and the great disabled access made it all very easy and an enjoyable evening. It was a fantastic show and even my mum, who is not the biggest musical theatre fan, said she would definitely see it again in the future.

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