JULE Styne and Bob Merrill’s Funny Girl is a behind-the-scenes celebration of the age of American vaudeville with Fanny Brice, one of its greatest stars, at its heart. Based on the real life story of the Ziegfeld Follies’ star, this latest production comes to Newcastle via the Menier Chocolate Factory and the West End. Directed by Michael Mayer and designed by Michael Pavelka and Matthew Wright, it is a slick, well-honed affair with impressive production values.

Topping the bill as Fanny Brice - the funny girl of the title - is Sheridan Smith who brings an irrepressible energy and humour to the role. Her delivery of standards such as People and Don’t Rain on My Parade thrilled the audience.

Lucky as she was in her career, however, Brice was unlucky in love. Darius Campbell plays Fanny’s high-rolling, gambling-fixated husband, Nick Arnstein. Tall, dark and handsome, he is already serving a term in gaol for embezzlement when the show opens.

Using flashback, the simple story traces Brice’s rise from Brooklyn music hall performer to Broadway star. But as her career succeeds so husband Nick’s frustration increases, driving him to extremes to establish his own success and eventually a term in the penitentiary.

In fact, gambling is a major theme of the musical with even Fanny’s mother and the neighbours enjoying the occasional poker game. One thing’s for certain, though, there’s no gambling with this production - it’s a definite high roller.

Until May 20. Box office: 08448 112 121, www.theatreroyal.co.uk

Laurence Sach

Sheridan Smith as Fanny Brice