Made famous by Barbra Streisand in the movie, Fanny Brice is a challenging role based on the real-life story of the stage, theatre, and film star from the early twentieth century. A comedy actress, she worked with the Ziegfeld Follies and had an unfortunate taste in men. The musical focuses on her relationship and marriage with Nicky Arnstein, a professional gambler who went bust and to prison. Platform Musicals brings her story to life at The Headgate Theatre in an exuberant, hugely enjoyable production.

The show does stand or fail on the casting of Fanny Brice. Helen McCraw is magnificent in the role, having the comedy chops as well as the singing power and finding beautiful, poignant moments in the tale. She is a delight, totally loveable, and the audience are with her all the way.

Thomas Pleasant is his usual excellent self as Arnstein; you can tell he’s a bad ‘un by the way he slides his hat onto his head. There’s not a weak link in the cast. Gareth Gwyn-Jones captures the friendship of Eddie, whose love for her is unrequited by Miss Brice, Kim Anderson a delight as Rose Brice, Barbara Ryan scene-stealing as Mrs Starkosh, and a fantastic chorus of singers and performers bring great energy onto the stage with them.

The trio of Neil Somerville, Phil Toms and Guy Eade provide superb music. Director Andrew Hodgson has a deep understanding of the musical, and special mention must go to the costume and technical team, who do a brilliant job.

My only complaint is that the show is too long, coming in at three hours with an interval and a break. This is not the fault of the company, and I maintain that the musical peaks with Don’t Let it Rain on My Parade were belted out superbly here by McCraw. In the hands of a lesser company, Act Three would have dragged horribly, but they keep the energy level up until the end, and a beautiful curtain call choral version of People. Excellent.

Funny Girl is at The Headgate Theatre until Saturday 25th November.