Tony Award winner Bartlett Sher, who staged the Tony-winning productions of South Pacific and The Light in the Piazza, will helm Funny Girl, which will begin performances Jan. 15, 2012, at the Ahmanson Theatre towards a Feb. 1, 2012, opening night. Performances are scheduled through Feb. 26, 2012. Rehearsals will begin in New York this November.
Sher has announced that the creative team will embark on an online talent search for an actress between the ages of 21-35 to play the iconic role, which solidified Barbra Streisand's status as a bona fide star in 1964. Funny Girl has a score by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill.
Sher and his creative team, according to a casting notice, are looking for an actress who will have "an unforgettably thrilling voice with a big range (E below middle C to a high F; Mezzo with a high mix or belt) and great comic skill, masking deep insecurity and pain. She is a once-in-a-generation talent, and must have excellent comedic timing."
In June 2010 producer Bob Boyett, who holds the rights to the stage musical, announced plans for a Broadway revival of Funny Girl with Tony Award-winning South Pacific director Sher attached, noting that Hollywood names had expressed interest in playing the coveted leading role, but that he was open to casting new talent.
The Center Theatre Group production is not billed as a pre-Broadway engagement. A representative for CTG told Playbill.com that Boyett has given Center Theatre Group special permission to produce a developmental production at the Ahmanson. Boyett previously discussed "Glee" and Spring Awakening star Lea Michele as an ideal casting choice in an interview with the New York Times, but noted that her filming schedule on "Glee" could preclude her from being part of the production. Michele performed Funny Girl's "Don't Rain On My Parade" during the 2010 Tony Awards telecast and recently offered Brice's signature "My Man" on an episode of "Glee."
Sher will reunite with his Tony Award-winning creative team from the 2008 South Pacific Broadway revival, which was produced by Lincoln Center Theater in association with Boyett. Funny Girl will have musical supervision by Kimberly Grigsby, choreography by Christopher Gattelli, set design by Michael Yeargan, costume design by Catherine Zuber, lighting design by Donald Holder and sound design by Scott Lehrer.
The talent firm Let It Cast is handling the online search for Fanny Brice, which will allow union and non-union actors to upload a 90-second musical audition on the website. The videos will not be made public, and will only be available for viewing by the Funny Girl creative team and producers. The deadline for submissions is July 15.
"Fanny Brice is an extraordinary role that requires an equally extraordinary actress," Sher said in a statement. "By adding this open and inclusive online audition system to our more traditional casting efforts we can, in essence, launch a nationwide search into every city and town in America. The ability to see the best talent from all over the country will be of enormous value in our wide-ranging search."
Funny Girl's closest full-scale Broadway encounter since it closed at the Broadway Theatre in 1967 (it originated at the Winter Garden) was a 2001 Paper Mill Playhouse production starring Leslie Kritzer, in New Jersey. The production and its star were acclaimed. A separate short-lived Broadway-aimed national tour was launched in 1996 starring Deborah Gibson, but shuttered on the road.
Streisand had already achieved a level of stardom by the time she tackled the role of Brice at the age of 21. She was Tony Award-nominated for her performance and earned an Academy Award for repeating her work in the 1968 film. Funny Girl features music by Styne, lyrics by Merrill and a book by Isobel Lennart. "People" and "Don't Rain on My Parade" are standouts from the score.