PLAYBILL PICKS: A Dozen Actresses We'd Like to See Play Fanny Brice in a Broadway Revival of Funny Girl
By Playbill Staff
July 18, 2013
We were just as disappointed as any theatre fan when the Broadway-aimed revival of Funny Girl was canceled in November 2011 prior to its January 2012 debut at the Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre.
That production, which was due to play the Imperial Theatre, would have marked the first Broadway revival of the 1964 musical, which starred a young Barbra Streisand in the role of Fanny Brice. We're still hopeful that Broadway audiences will someday get the chance to once again enjoy the Jule Styne-Bob Merrill-Isobel Lennart musical, so we decided to suggest a few actresses we thought could take on the musical's title role.
Click through to see our baker's dozen of choices, and visit Playbill's Facebook page to offer additional suggestions.
Shoshana Bean first displayed her powerhouse vocals in the Tony-winning musical Hairspray, but she drew her legion of fans as one of the favorite Elphabas who have graced the Wicked stage at the Gershwin Theatre. We can almost hear Bean's roof-raising versions of "People" and "The Music That Makes Me Dance."
We're not sure whether Nina Arianda sings, but her two Broadway appearances were so spectacular — displaying a gift for comedy in the revival of Born Yesterday and an equal flair for drama in her Tony-winning performance in David Ives' Venus and Fur — that we would be eager to see the many dimensions she would bring to the role of Fanny Brice.
The former Broadway star (Spring Awakening, Les Miserables), who went on to international fame via the Fox juggernaut "Glee," proves week after week on that hit series her ability to sing in a multitude of styles, and the program has also given the young actress the chance to develop her dramatic and comedic chops. She also belted out Funny Girl's "Don't Rain on My Parade" on the Tony Awards. With her huge TV fan base, it might be the perfect time for Michele to return to Broadway.
One of the most gifted comedic actresses of her generation, Leslie Kritzer also boasts a rangy, thrilling belt. In fact, anyone who caught her award-winning turn in Leslie Kritzer Is Patti LuPone at Le Mouches knows this performing artist is just waiting for the right vehicle to catapult her to stardom. Plus, she also scored raves when she played Brice in the Paper Mill Playhouse production of the Jule Styne classic.
Okay, we admit that Sutton Foster looks as much like Fanny Brice as… Sutton Foster, but after watching Foster's Tony-winning performances in Thoroughly Modern Millie and Anything Goes as well as her acclaimed work in Little Women, Shrek and Young Frankenstein, we're pretty sure she can play most any role. And, Foster also delivered a knockout version of "I'm the Greatest Star" during the Actors Fund concert version of Funny Girl.
Ever since Idina Menzel literally burst forth onto the Nederlander Theatre stage as the original Maureen in the Pulitzer Prize-winning Rent, this Tony-winning actress has proved herself — like Fanny Brice — a true, original talent. She's got the pipes, the comic chops and the star quality, and she even previewed her version of "Don't Rain on My Parade" at the Kennedy Center Honors tribute to the original Fanny, Barbra Streisand.
Rachel Bay Jones
We were completely enchanted by Rachel Bay Jones' performance in this season's Tony-winning revival of Pippin. The singing actress, who has previously been seen on Broadway in Hair and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, offered a completely new take on the role of single mom Catherine, one that was delightfully quirky, humorous, moving and wonderfully sung. We'd love to see if she could work similar magic with the role of Fanny Brice.
Stephanie J. Block
Stephanie J. Block charmed as Liza Minnelli (The Boy from Oz), soared as Elphaba (Wicked) and was Tony-nominated for her performance in the title role of the recent revival of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and the thought of her wrapping her rich alto around such songs as "People," "Don't Rain on My Parade" and "I'm the Greatest Star" is an equally tantalizing proposition.
While we were originally surprised by the choice of Lauren Ambrose, who had no previous Broadway musical experience, for the now-canceled Funny Girl revival, we were curious to see what this gifted actress — a delight on screen ("Six Feet Under") and on stage (Awake and Sing!) — would bring to the role. We still are interested in seeing her take on the legendary vaudeville comedienne.
In the past two years this up-and-coming singing actress has taken the New York theatre world by storm. She first drew attention for her raise-the-roof vocals and comic antics in the Broadway revival of Godspell, but it was her work in the recent Off-Broadway musical Dogfight, where Mendez showed her dramatic range — bringing waitress Rose to full life — impressing fans and critics alike. She is now flying high as the not-so-wicked witch Elphaba in Broadway's Wicked, and we're sure Mendez's combination of vocal fireworks and dramatic and comedic skills would make for a thrilling Fanny.
It was also a busy season for Annaleigh Ashford, who impressed us in Off-Broadway's Dogfight and even more so in the 2013 Tony-winning Best Musical Kinky Boots, where she displayed her delicious comedic timing in the role of Lauren. Ashford's Tony-nominated turn reached its comic peak in the wonderful Cyndi Lauper tune "The History of Wrong Guys." We'd love her to bring that same zaniness to the role of Fanny Brice.
Lady Gaga has made a career out of being unique, a trait that also describes the late "Funny Girl" Fanny Brice. The pop icon is also a skilled singer and musician, who starred as the long-suffering Miss Adelaide in her high school production of the Tony-winning Frank Loesser musical Guys and Dolls. We're not sure whether Broadway is in her plans, but would love to see what this singular talent could bring to the role of Fanny. And, perhaps, she'd even design her own costumes!
It certainly seems like it is Anna Kendrick's time to shine. The Tony and Academy Award nominee recently wrapped filming the screen adaptation of The Last Five Years and also is in talks to portray Cinderella in the film version of the Tony-winning musical Into the Woods. Kendrick (High Society, "Up in the Air," "Pitch Perfect, "Camp") also scored a pop hit with the song "Cups," and we think she could also score in the title role of Funny Girl.