Hello, Gorgeous! Lauren Ambrose Will Star in Broadway-Bound Funny Girl Revival

By Adam Hetrick
and Kenneth Jones
03 Aug 2011

Lauren Ambrose
Lauren Ambrose
Photo by Sam Handel

Tony Award-winning South Pacific and Light in the Piazza director Bartlett Sher has found his Fanny Brice. "Six Feet Under" star Lauren Ambrose will inhabit the legendary vaudeville comedienne in the Center Theatre Group production of Funny Girl.

Playbill.com previously reported that Ambrose was in negotiations to take on the iconic role originated by Barbra Streisand in the upcoming revival of the Jule Styne-Bob Merrill-scored musical. Representatives for the Center Theatre Group have now confirmed Ambrose's casting to Playbill.com. Additionally, producers announced a plan to bring the show to Broadway in spring 2012

The Center Theatre Group Los Angeles tryout at the Ahmanson Theatre begins Jan. 15, 2012. The backstage musical that traces Brice's rise to success and troubled love life will officially open there Feb. 1, 2012, for a run through Feb. 26. Rehearsals will begin in New York this November.

It is expected that the new incarnation of Funny Girl will incorporate music previously cut from the musical. Sher is also looking at strengthening the second act, which explores the dissolution of Brice's marriage. The film famously jettisoned "The Music That Makes Me Dance" from the Broadway production to include Brice's signature song, "My Man." The film also included several period songs from the era that Brice performed.



Ambrose said in a statement, "Let's face it, there is obviously more than a lot to live up to playing Fanny Brice, but I am humbled and thrilled by the opportunity to be a part of this revival. The character is complex, the music beautiful and challenging. I can't wait to get into that rehearsal room with the team Bart is assembling — wish we could start tomorrow!"

Ambrose made her Broadway debut in 2006 under Sher's direction in the revival of Clifford Odets' Depression-era play Awake and Sing! for Lincoln Center Theater. Though she is not known for her singing, Ambrose studied classical voice and fronts the band Lauren Ambrose and the Leisure Class. She has covered "My Man" during several gigs at Joe's Pub. Ambrose's stage credits also include Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet for the Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park and the London production of Sam Shepard's Buried Child. She is well known for her role on "Six Feet Under."

Director Sher said in a statement, "It's important that people not see this casting process as trying to find the next Barbra Streisand. She is one of a kind. Instead, I really needed someone with whom I could explore the original musical and come to terms with Fanny Brice for a new era. I understand how difficult this part is to fill as well as the characteristics required to explore this in a new way. The world of burlesque, vaudeville and the Follies is a unique American invention and how Fanny Brice came up in that world is a wonderful story, but this show is also about the sacrifices of being an artist and the high cost that women in particular suffer when they find great success and the difficult choices that come with accomplishment. Lauren Ambrose has enormous accomplishments as an actor, especially a truthfulness in her acting that leads to great comedy, as well as a wonderful, rich voice that is fully trained and can genuinely soar.

"For me the key to any revival is finding the balance between respecting and unearthing all the deepest intentions of the original, and yet pushing the work ahead to see it in a new way. I know with Lauren that we can do that. We couldn't be more thrilled to get to work and make something special and something new."

Tony Award-winning producer Bob Boyett, who co-produced War Horse and South Pacific with Lincoln Center Theater, where Sher is resident director, holds the rights to Funny Girl.

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 L.A. engagement will be produced by the Center Theatre Group with special permission from Boyett, Sonia Friedman Productions, Jean Doumanian, Stacey Mindich and Tim Levy.

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.