Joan Rivers. Barbra Streisand. Two incredibly talented and famous women, two literal icons - but every icon has to start somewhere. In this comedy of Roy Smiles, we can’t follow these two wonderful ladies careers through the decades, but we can get two slices from it - one for the first and one for the second act. Trust me - it’s delicious.
Rosanna Harris looks like the literal younger version of Barbra Streisand with the trace of her calm elegance and personal dynamic power - and the audience gets a taste of her vocal skills too which is one of the highlights of the show. Her Barbra is growing up for the second act. It is remarkable but not unbelievable - she is not changing her into a different person but developing her character carefully.
Mia Tomlison as Joan Rivers is a treat. Her comedic timing and skills are outstanding, she embodies the type of a woman who can handle every difficulty in her life with her bright humour and sarcasm. She is not changing the way Barbra did. She is using Joan Rivers great personality to be wise when she is young, and be a careless teen when she grows older to keep the perfect balance. Only people with the finest humour are capable of this and Tomlison is doing a great job with it.
Harris and Tomlison have a wonderful chemistry on stage. Their energy is outstanding and the way how they are passing the dialogues between eachother is impressive like a tennis match and it’s full of some kind of a teenage girl charm like a pillowfight. Directed by Michael Strassen, the dynamic draws a perfect arch: in the first act we can observe how a star starts to be processing - it starts when the person is deciding they want to be one - and in the second one, we can watch how these divas were going back to those two young starlets for a moment or two.
The Studio at New Wimbledon Theatre was very accurate space. The intimacy of a black box theatre is a perfect fit for this story from two different dressing rooms of two different stops of a carreer of two performers. The main point of the dressing room is that people can’t see you while you are inside - in the first act it causes frustration and in the second one – which refers to the first one respectively with a few upgrades - it’s a place where you can hide, take some rest and be yourself. Set and costume design by Jean Gray, who is using the conclusion in the space: you’re going to be the same person, you’re just getting some upgrades during your lifetime!
The Funny Girls is now playing in New Wimbledon Theatre Studio until 24th September 2021. The show will return later in the year at Upstairs at The Gatehouse (26 October – 21 November)
Review: Rebeka Molnar Photo: Mark Senior