Lea Michele is ‘Funny Girl.’ So Beanie Feldstein exits early

It’s official: Lea Michele will soon be starring in Funny Girl on Broadway.

The “Glee” actress follows Beanie Feldstein in the first Broadway revival of the popular musical, about legendary Jewish variety star Fanny Brice. Feldstein will leave the August Wilson Theater production on July 31, two months earlier than previously announced. Fanny Brice’s replacement Julie Benko will play the title role from August 2nd through September. Michele will take on the role on September 6, alongside Tovah Feldshuh as Mrs Brice, Ramin Karimloo as Nick Arnstein and Jared Grimes as Eddie Ryan.

With music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Bob Merrill, Funny Girl loosely follows the life and career of stage and film comedian Brice and her tumultuous relationship with her gaming businessman, Nick Arnstein. Directed by Michael Mayer, this Broadway production includes an adaptation of Isobel Lennart’s book by Harvey Fierstein; Mayer and Fierstein previously teamed up with Sheridan Smith for a successful London revival of the musical.

Feldstein – who made her Broadway debut in a scene-stealing Minnie Fay in 2017’s Hello, Dolly! Revival – was originally scheduled to drop Funny Girl on September 25th. This date would also be the final bow for Jane Lynch, who plays Brice’s mother in the musical. However, Lynch will not be working with her former “Glee” co-star; She will now leave the production a little earlier, on September 4th, and Feldshuh will play Mrs. Brice alongside Michele.

“When the production decided to take the show in a different direction, I made the extremely difficult decision to step down earlier than expected,” Feldstein announced on Instagram on Sunday.

“Playing Fanny Brice on Broadway has been a lifelong dream of mine and to do so for the past few months has been a great pleasure and a true honor,” the Booksmart and American Crime Story actress wrote in her post . “I will never forget this experience and from the bottom of my heart I want to thank every single person who came to the August Wilson for the love and support you have shown me and our amazing cast and crew.”

Beanie Feldstein, performing with Kurt Csolak and Justin Prescott, in "Funny girl."

Beanie Feldstein appears in Funny Girl with Kurt Csolak and Justin Prescott.

(Matthew Murphy)

Beanie Feldstein and the cast of "Funny girl."

Beanie Feldstein and the cast of Funny Girl.

(Matthew Murphy)

Playing Fanny Brice on stage has always been a big challenge. (After directing the original 1964 Broadway production, Garson Kanin wrote a 1980 novel loosely based on this very casting question, and the best-selling novel then became the 2012 TV show Smash.) Barbra Streisand landed the role famous to superstar; She then reprized her Tony-nominated performance in the 1968 film (and won an Oscar) and followed it up in the 1975 sequel Funny Lady.

Casting an actress who can work in Streisand’s long shadow or entertain an audience still loyal to Streisand’s final version of his beloved score is a task that has previously deterred producers from resuming the show on Broadway. The revival only received a Tony nomination for lead actor Jared Grimes – a disappointing haul for a high-profile project.

“I appreciate Feldstein’s unique self and have no desire to set her against Streisand’s impossible standard. But ‘Funny Girl’ is a gigantic haul, and though she brags bravely, she never embraces the role,” wrote Times theater critic Charles McNulty. “Feldstein has an agile face and a knack for pitfalls, but she’s not a master clown yet. And her singing is a mixed blessing. She can belt out “Don’t Rain on My Parade” with enough power to get the audience on their feet in ecstasy by the end of the first act, but her easygoing voice rarely gains traction.”

Starring Funny Girl is a gig Michele has been trying to manifest for years. The Spring Awakening breakout performed the standout number from the musical, Don’t Rain on My Parade, several times on Glee, as well as on the Fox show’s accompanying live tour, their own concert sets, and even at the Tony Awards.

Corresponding The New York TimesMichele had tried to commit to the various plans for a revival over the years; At one point, Glee creator Ryan Murphy snagged the rights, hoping to recreate the on-screen storyline—of Michele’s character Rachel Berry in Broadway’s Funny Girl—in real life.

“A dream come true is an understatement,” Michele wrote on Instagram. “I am so incredibly honored to be joining this amazing cast and production and to be returning to the stage and playing Fanny Brice on Broadway.”

This marks Michele’s return to Broadway since her exit from Spring Awakening in 2009. She began acting in Broadway’s Les Misérables, Ragtime and Fiddler on the Roof, and followed a six-year run on Glee. short-lived TV shows “Scream Queens” and “The Mayor”.

Funny Girl will also be Michele’s first major role since Reports of their disturbing behavior made headlines in 2020. After actress Samantha Marie Ware accused Michele of subjecting her to verbal abuse and “other traumatic microaggressions” on the set of “Glee,” she said issued a statement of apology and largely stayed out of the press. (That is, until the release of HBO Documentary “Spring Awakening”. Earlier this year, followed by numerous appearances at Broadway openings and last month’s Tony Awards.)

Netizens have poked fun at Feldstein and Michele’s reactions to various Funny Girl developments: Michele’s name was trending on Twitter when Feldstein’s casting was announced last August, and it was heavily remembered when Feldstein’s appearance was met with lackluster reviews from critics in April. But the behind-the-scenes drama of the stage comedy recast is no joke.

“If Lea is in this musical and you see her, I will never blame you for not sharing about black women and their experiences in this industry.” tweeted “Oklahoma!” actress sister On Sunday evening.

“Idk on y’all, but so many people are celebrating the idea of ​​a plus-size queer actor being replaced by an actor that people say is a horror to work with and … feels real to me.” disgusting,” tweeted backstage social media manager Katie Minard.

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/story/2022-07-11/lea-michele-funny-girl-beanie-feldstein Lea Michele is ‘Funny Girl.’ So Beanie Feldstein exits early

Sarah Ridley

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