It’s rare to see two leads from the West End take on a tour in the provinces, giving theatregoers who are unable to get to London a chance to see the West End leads in their local theatres. When the tour of Funny Girl was announced, it was revealed that West End star Sheridan Smith would lead the cast of the tour at certain venues, while her understudy Natasha Barnes would play opposite the male West End lead Darius Campbell at other venues. In the end, Campbell joins Smith in leading the cast for this week’s run at the Wales Millennium Centre. Tonight saw Smith returning to the role of Fanny Brice for the first time in over a month after being indisposed at recent venues due to contracting the mumps. From her performance, one would never have believed that this funny girl had been off stage as once again Smith is full of vitality and wrings both the comedy and the emotional truth of a challenging part.

I’ve seen this show grow from the original, small-scale production at the Menier Chocolate Factory to the West End transfer at the Savoy Theatre, while it now plays a bigger stage in Cardiff than its London home. Although the two leads remain the same, the supporting cast is completely new and bring a certain freshness to the piece. Rachel Izen provides a new take on the maternal protectiveness of Fanny’s mother, Mrs Brice, while Joshua Lay brings a different physicality and geekiness to Fanny’s friend and mentor Eddie Ryan. It’s also good to see experienced West End hands Myra Sands as the card-playing Mrs Strakosh and Martin Callaghan back on the UK stage in the role of Mr Keeney.

Fanny Brice was a brilliant comic who broke the mould for female stars at the time and became a huge Ziegfeld star. Likewise, Sheridan Smith breaks free of the Barbra Streisand film and makes Bob Merrill and Jules Styne’s iconic numbers ‘People’ and ‘Don’t rain on my parade’ her own. Her opening number ‘I’m the greatest star’ is also pure theatrical gold. You route for her as she tries to get a break in showbiz, you laugh as she wrings every ounce of comedy out of some priceless routines, you marvel at her success in the Ziegfeld Follies and you cry for her when she gets let down by her man.

Although it’s almost impossible to take your eyes away from Smith’s winsome performance, Campbell has also developed since I last saw the show – his suave Nick Arnstein seems to win his way into Brice’s affection with even more charm. There’s good contrast between the Ziegfeld Follies routines featuring the comedic Brice and the foundering relationship with gambler Arnstein. The second half seems stronger and more dramatic than previously, coming after a first half packed with the most well-known of Jule Styne’s numbers in the show.

The staging for the tour has been adapted from the West End production with some effective new elements. However, the mirrors at the side of the stage which worked so well at the Menier work less well due to the sightlines of the bigger space.

Bob Merrill's lyrics are full of wit, charm and depth and are a perfect match for Jule Styne's music which has its own vitality and prowess. I actually got something new out of this production despite having seen its previous two productions – an indication of the strength of the material and the winsome, charming, funny girl at the heart of this show, Sheridan Smith.