Two iconic musicals recently returned to the London stage, breaking records and hearts when the tickets sold out. Audiences for Funny Girl got to see Sheridan Smith at the top of her powers and a performance that won five stars from The Telegraph and The Independent. The King and I broke box office records for the biggest-grossing week in London Palladium history.
Now’s your chance to see what you missed, as both are coming to Vue – Funny Girl on 24 October (get tickets here), and The King and I on 29 November (get tickets here). But which one should you star in? These six choices should help you decide.
1. WHICH OF THESE HOLLYWOOD STARS IS YOUR SPIRIT ANIMAL?
Funny Girl and The King and I were both written for the stage, but you might know them better as hit movies with awesome female leads. Deborah Kerr was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for The King and I in 1956. Barbra Streisand actually won it for 1968’s Funny Girl. “Hello, gorgeous,” are the first words she says in the film. It’s also the first thing she said when they gave her the Oscar.
2. HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE SEEN?
In Funny Girl, lead character Fanny is a stagestruck teenager whose jokes, confidence and energy get her a starring role in a Vaudeville show. In The King and I, Anna is a buttoned-up teacher who’s summoned to be governess to the King of Siam’s children. They’re both based on true stories. Fanny Brice was a comedy entertainer turned recording artist and radio star. Anna Leonowens was a teacher, feminist and anti-slavery campaigner whose memoir formed the basis of The King and I.
3. WHAT’S YOUR MESSAGE TO THE WORLD?
For the West End versions, the amazing Sheridan Smith plays Fanny and Broadway star Kelli O’Hara plays Anna. They’re both fantastic parts for singers. Funny Girl has the bombastic “I’m The Greatest Star”, the bittersweet “People Who Need People” and the rousing closer “Don’t Rain on My Parade”. The King and I has the incredibly famous “I Whistle a Happy Tune”, “Getting to Know You” and “Shall We Dance”, all by Rodgers & Hammerstein. Which you will be singing all the way home (sorry neighbours).
4. WHAT ARE YOU LIKE WHEN NO ONE’S LOOKING?
Neither Fanny nor Anna are quite what they seem. Fanny worries she’s not pretty enough to be a truly loved, while prim Anna finds herself falling for someone unexpected.
5. YOUR SELFIES FROM LAST NIGHT PROBABLY SHOW YOU...
Fanny becomes famous - and rich - on her wit, rather than her looks. Meanwhile in The King and I, you might want to keep an eye on Anna’s ball gown. It cost £15,000 and weighs a staggering three stone. Kelli O’Hara says, “I can’t even hang it up. It’s why my dressing room is so near the stage because I can’t fit through normal doors when I’m wearing it.”
6. ON STRICTLY, YOUR BEST DANCE WOULD BE...
If the singing doesn’t knock you out, the dancing will. Both stage shows are packed with amazing ensemble pieces, from the high-kicking chorus lines in Funny Girl to the temple dancers in The King and I. As for the romantic dances, they reflect the era they’re set in. For Anna and the King, living in 1860s Bangkok, it’s waltzes and polkas. Fanny and Nicky are courting after World War One, so it’s suave and jazzy.
… so, is a sumptuous, singalong romance more your style? Or are you more suited to a goofy, roof-raising spectacular? Whichever role is for you, experience both these musicals super-sized from the comfort of your local Vue.
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