It’s been a busy but great couple of weeks for me. I don’t know if it is those occasional bright sunny days that have elevated my mood from ‘solitary, duvet-loving, winter recluse’ to ‘spring in my step, summer’s-on-its-way’ kind of guy but whatever the reason, I’m just going with it and not letting anyone rain on my parade!
Today I am on a bit of a high as I got to spend a glorious evening with both a funny girl and a wonderful lady.
Whenever Ali Keenan and I are in close proximity to each other, either at work or at a social event we inevitably end up singing together (I can neither confirm nor deny that wine is usually involved!). For some reason showtunes tend to feature very highly in our repertoire. Now, I am no Alfie Boe, but that doesn’t stop me. So when I received a message from Ali about five months ago telling me she had booked tickets for us to see the award-winning Sheridan Smith playing the role of Fanny Brice in ‘Funny Girl’ at the Savoy Theatre, I jumped for joy!
So it was that yesterday evening I passed through the revolving doors of the Savoy Hotel and stepped into the foyer of one of the most iconic hotels in London. There were beautiful, brightly-coloured flowers everywhere in hues of pink and orange, orchids and cyclamen abounding – to the point where I did wonder if someone had been a little heavy handed with Richard Jackson’s Flower Power or Plant Invigorator. From the midst of all that dazzling colour stepped my date for the evening.
Ali and I don’t often get to hang out with each other so we decided to make an evening of it and had booked a table for dinner at Kasper’s seafood bar and grill at The Savoy (they do a pre-theatre menu with set prices for either two or three courses – set prices are always very reassuring when dining in such luxurious surroundings… no nasty surprises when the bill arrives!).
Kasper’s overlooks the Thames and is beautifully furnished in deep lush green velvets with gold accents and mirrored details, with lighting that is the very height of flattery! Ali and I decided to push the boat out and treat ourselves to a glass of bubbles and only have two courses instead of three; the perfect trade-off as far as I am concerned (though it was still a wrench forgoing my pudding, with my sweet-tooth the size of Mount Everest!). With our glasses charged we toasted to an evening of fun, and it was certainly that!
We had allowed ourselves about two hours to eat and chat before the show which was right next door, but inevitably it wasn’t enough and we found ourselves hastily calling for the bill and scrambling from our table in a manner not quite befitting the cool, understated elegance of our surroundings. You have to laugh though.
Out the revolving doors we spun (praying not to create a comedy sketch of our own by catching anything in the doors or endlessly spinning round and round and never quite figuring out how to exit) and before we knew it, there we were, standing amongst an excited crowd and entering the historic Savoy Theatre.
The Savoy Theatre is like no other (I say that as a man who likes going to the theatre and was a theatre actor for 15 years). It was the first public building in the entire world to be lit by incandescent electric lights, and it is still shining bright today. After a devastating fire in 1990 it was faithfully restored to its 1929 vision and the décor really is an awe-inspiring homage to that period, marrying together crisp clean lines with a sizeable side-order of opulence. It made me smile as I entered.
So here we were to see Funny Girl, the story of a real life funny girl, Fanny Brice, who lampooned her way in to the hearts of American audiences in the early part of the 20th Century. However, as we have come to learn with so many comics, what you see is not always the reality of the situation and Fanny was no different.
Abundantly successful in her career (earning $3000 a week at the height of her career in the 1920s and 30s), yet tragically unsuccessful in her personal life, Sheridan Smith played the part beautifully. It was witty, slapstick funny, poignant and moving all on the change of a single expression – such is her mastery of her profession. I believe Sheridan Smith may be one of our greatest actresses; she seems to be able to do it all – comedy, musicals, pathos. We laughed with her, not at her (a line of Fanny’s in the play) and it is an important distinction, but we also sighed and cried for her. This is not an easy role to play and she does it brilliantly.
She does not do it alone though. Nick Arnstein, played by Darius Campbell, is Fanny’s love interest and husband (though in reality Fanny had three husbands before she died – always unlucky in love). He is the perfect counterpoint to Fanny. While she is nervous, unsure of herself around men (but never unsure of her abilities as a performer) he is suave and confident, and she falls for him big time.
It is 2.5 hours of an emotional rollercoaster, exactly what a night at the theatre used to be… should be! There was laughter and crying, songs and dance routines. Ali and I lapped it up. Songs were hummed, toes were tapped and tears were shed.
Great nights out are about so much more than the night itself, they are about a shared experience and the memories you take with you. On that basis I will be taking some wonderful memories with me, and despite Fanny not quite keeping her man and the sadness of that as well as the tears I will still have only happy memories of the night. Funny that, isn’t it?
Until next time,