After days of headlines, the producers of the hit revival of Funny Girl at London’s Savoy Theatre have confirmed its leading lady Sheridan Smith will be taking up to a month away from the role.
The star won rave reviews for her performance as Fanny Brice in the show which transferred earlier this year to the Savoy after its successful launch run at the Menier Chocolate Factory.
Following speculation in the press, the producers released a statement announcing understudy Natasha J Barnes will once again be taking on the central role for between two and four weeks while Smith ‘takes a leave of absence from the show for two to four weeks’.
Although extremely successful, the show has also been dogged by rumours and controversy surrounding its gifted star.
Barnes previously stepped into the spotlight for the last few performances of the show at the Menier, when Smith took time out after her father was diagnosed with cancer.
In the official statement posted on the musical’s website and released to the press the producers said: “The entire team at Funny Girl is thinking of Sheridan, and we know she is getting the rest and support she needs during this very difficult and stressful time. We will all miss her enormously and send our love and best wishes – and we are looking forward to her return to the show in due course.”
Referring to Barnes, the producers added: “Natasha has been covering Sheridan in this role since the run at the Menier Chocolate Factory and has received high praise from audiences on the occasions that she has appeared. We are certain audiences will continue to love our amazing show.”
Loosely based on the life of Ziegfeld Follies star, the comedienne Fanny Brice, the critically acclaimed production also features Darius Campbell as the man she loved, charismatic gambler Nicky Arnstein. The production is due to play the Savoy until 8 October.