When Funny Girl arrived on Broadway in 1964, it made an international star out of its young leading lady Barbra Streisand nearly overnight. Ms. Streisand reprised the role on film, immortalizing her most iconic role. A new London production, featuring a revised book by Harvey Fierstein and direction by Michael Mayer, recently completed a smash-hit run at the Menier Chocolate Factory and will transfer to the West End beginning April 9. This production's wildly positive reception with audiences has many wondering if a Broadway transfer might be in the cards. It would be Funny Girl's first Broadway production since its debut, but that doesn't mean there haven't been several valiant efforts to mount a revival.
In honor of Funny Girl's Broadway anniversary, we're taking a look back at this iconic musical's history and legacy with a timeline of its development, success and the multiple Broadway revival productions that almost were.
April 9, 1961 - It’s reported that Mary Martin is in talks to portray Fanny Brice in a musical biography of the famous Vaudeville performer. Martin had read the screenplay of a planned biopic based on Brice’s life and had the idea that it might make a good stage musical.
July 26, 1963 - After going through several directors, writers and stars, producer Ray Stark announces that Barbra Streisand, “a 21-year-old night club singer,” will portray Fanny Brice on the stage in the musical now titled Funny Girl. Bob Fosse was attached to direct the production.
September 23, 1963 - Bob Fosse leaves the production in favor of working on a musical that would eventually become On a Clear Day, You Can See Forever, though Fosse eventually left this production as well. Coincidentally, the property would go on to receive a feature film adaptation starring Streisand.
March 26, 1964 - After a tumultuous out-of-town tryout that involved many re-writes and cuts, Funny Girl opens on Broadway, though it is two weeks later than initially announced. The show is a big hit with critics and audiences, running for 1,348 performances. However, because it had the unlucky distinction of opening two months after Hello, Dolly!, the production fails to win any 1964 Tony Awards.
Streisand's bio in the Funny Girl Playbill gave audience members an idea of the actress's sense of humor before the show even began.
GALLERY: Celebrating Barbra Streisand's Funny Girl Days
Celebrating Barbra Streisand with a Look Back at Funny Girl
December 27, 1965 - Streisand was replaced on Broadway by Mimi Hines, who went on to appear in Hello, Dolly!, Grease! and, on television, The Tonight Show and Frasier.
April 13, 1966 - Streisand opens Funny Girl in London, though she was soon to learn that she was pregnant and wouldn’t be able to stay with the production for very long.
July 16, 1966 - Streisand completes her final live stage performance as Fanny Brice in London, and five months later her son Jason Gould is born.
August 1967 - Principal photography begins on a major motion picture adaptation of Funny Girl, with Streisand reprising her stage role.
September 18, 1968 - Funny Girl is released in movie theatres, first as a first-tier roadshow release and later as a wide release. As was the stage production four years earlier, the film is a hit with critics and audiences. Streisand goes on to win Best Actress at the 1969 Academy Awards; she tied with Katharine Hepburn who won for her performance in The Lion In Winter. Though it lost the Best Picture award to Oliver!, Funny Girl proved to be the bigger financial success.
The film presented a fairly faithful adaptation of the beloved stage production, though there were some changes. The songs “Cornet Man,” “Who Taught Her Everything?,” “Find Yourself a Man,” “Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat,” “Who Are You Now” and “The Music That Makes Me Dance” were dropped, while “The Swan” and “Funny Girl” were added. The film also interpolated the songs “I’d Rather Be Blue,” “Second-Hand Rose” and “My Man,” all signature numbers of the real-life Fanny Brice.
March 15, 1975 - Funny Lady, a musical sequel to Funny Girl also starring Streisand and featuring a score by John Kander and Fred Ebb, is released in movie theatres. The film is successful–the 8th highest grossing picture of 1975–though not as big of a hit as Funny Girl.
October 1, 1996 - The first major stage production of Funny Girl since the Broadway original opens a national tour in Pittsburgh. The production features direction by Sammy Dallas Bayes and stars pop singer Deborah Gibson and Robert Westenberg. Though the production anticipated touring engagements lasting over a year with a possible Broadway transfer to follow, it shutters a little over a month later on November 10 in Wisconsin. An anticipated January re-opening never materializes.
September 23, 2002 - The Actors Fund stages a concert production of Funny Girl that features a bevy of Broadway divas sharing the role of Fanny, including Carolee Carmello, Kristin Chenoweth, Sutton Foster, Ana Gasteyer, Whoopi Goldberg, Spencer Kayden, Jane Krakowski, Judy Kuhn, LaChanze, Ricki Lake, Andrea Martin, Idina Menzel, Julia Murney, Bebe Neuwirth, Alice Playten and Lillias White. Seth Rudetsky serves as musical director.
June 2010 - Producer Bob Boyett announces that he plans to bring a revival of Funny Girl to Broadway in 2011, to be helmed by Bartlett Sherr. Though Boyett says he’s open to casting “new talent” in the title role, he also comments that Lea Michele, star of Glee and Spring Awakening on Broadway, has expressed interest and is on his list for consideration.
August 2011 - Lauren Ambrose, known for TV’s Six Feet Under, is announced as the star of Boyett’s new production of Funny Girl, which now has Christopher Gattelli attached as choreographer as well. A pre-Broadway try-out production is planned at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, to begin performances January 2012. The production was expected to transfer to Broadway in the spring of 2012. The production is also expected to present a somewhat revised version of the original show, with songs cut from the original production re-inserted and book revisions to the second act.
November 2011 - After four high-level investors drop out of Boyett’s reportedly $12 million production of Funny Girl, both the Los Angeles try-out and Broadway transfer are canceled. The economic climate and abundance of classic musical revivals also opening on Broadway that season (including Follies, The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess and Evita) are cited as reasons for the cancellation.
February 2014 - In an interview with her Spring Awakening co-star and best friend Jonathan Groff in Teen Vogue, Lea Michele says that Glee producer Ryan Murphy has acquired the rights to produce a major revival of Funny Girl, ostensibly starring Michele in the title role. Michele sang several of the songs from the score on Glee, and a Broadway revival of Funny Girl starring Michele’s character Rachel was eventually part of the show’s plot.
August 2015 - The Menier Chocolate Factory in London announces that they will produce a new production of Funny Girl, to be directed by Michael Mayer and starring Sheridan Smith. The production is announced to begin performances November 20, with an official opening set for December 2. When tickets to the production go on sale, the entire production sells out within 90 minutes.
September 2015 - It is announced that Harvey Fierstein will revise Funny Girl’s original book for the Menier Chocolate Factory production.
October 25, 2015 - At a panel discussion at EW [Entertainment Weekly] Fest, Ryan Murphy says though he had looked into possible directors and leading men for his planned production of Funny Girl, the production never materialized and wouldn’t be happening any time soon.
October 29, 2015 - Before even beginning performances, The Menier Chocolate Factory’s production of Funny Girl is announced to receive a West End transfer beginning April 9.
December 2, 2015 - Funny Girl opens at The Menier Chocolate Factory to rave reviews, and two days later announces an extension of the West End transfer. What was to have been a limited 12-week engagement ending July 12 is now on sale through October 8.