After weeks of rumors, it's finally official: Lea Michele will return to Broadway starring as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl at the August Wilson Theatre. The Glee star will begin performances September 6.
Current Fanny, Beanie Feldstein, was initially expected to depart the production September 25, but has since moved that date up to July 31. Standby Julie Benko will take on the role for all performances August 2–September 4 and will play Thursday performances beginning September 8. Benko has been with the company since the revival opened, notably filling in for Feldstein during her bout of COVID-19.
Tovah Feldshuh will also join the production as Mrs. Brice with Michele September 6. Feldshuh succeeds Jane Lynch, who also was previously announced to depart the production September 25 with Feldstein. Lynch will now leave the production September 4.
The performance will be a true full-circle moment for Michele. Not only will it be the self-proclaimed "Streisand Worshiper"'s first time back performing on the Main Stem since the original Broadway production of Spring Awakening, she's also made it no small secret that the character is a bucket-list dream role. While starring on six seasons of Glee, Michele, or rather Rachel Berry, sang the musical's "Don't Rain On My Parade," "You Are Woman, I Am Man," "People," "I'm the Greatest Star," and "Who Are You Now," and a season five plotline for the character saw her playing the role on Broadway. The news also follows reports of earlier attempts to revive Funny Girl on Broadway with Michele that never materialized.
Before Spring Awakening, Michele appeared on Broadway in Les Misérables and the 2004 revival of Fiddler on the Roof, and created the role of The Little Girl in the original Broadway cast of Ragtime. Four-time Tony nominee Feldshuh was last seen on Broadway in Pippin, with previous credits including Irena's Vow, Golda's Balcony, Lend Me a Tenor, and Yentl—the latter of which shares source material with the 1983 Streisand movie musical but is otherwise unrelated.
Funny Girl, which premiered on Broadway in 1964, features a score by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill and a book by Isobel Lennart, newly adapted by Tony winner Harvey Fierstein for this revival. The original production propelled a young Streisand to international fame; she would reprise her stage performance in the 1968 film adaptation, winning an Academy Award and a Golden Globe in the process. The biomusical tracks real-life singer and comic Fanny Brice from her humble beginnings in Brooklyn, New York, to fame and fortune onstage in the Ziegfeld Follies and as a radio and screen performer.
The production currently stars Feldstein as Fanny and Lynch as Mrs. Brice, along with Ramin Karimloo as Nick Arnstein and 2022 Tony nominee Jared Grimes as Eddie Ryan, both of whom are remaining with the show. The company also includes Peter Francis James as Florenz Ziegfeld, Ephie Aardema as Mrs. Nadler, Debra Cardona as Mrs. Meeker, Toni DiBuono as Mrs. Strakosh, and Martin Moran as Tom Keeney.
The ensemble features Amber Ardolino, Daniel Beeman, Kurt Csolak, Leslie Donna Flesner, Afra Hines, Masumi Iwai, Aliah James, Stephen Mark Lukas, John Thomas Manzari, Katie Mitchell, Justin Prescott, Mariah Reives, and Leslie Blake Walker. Rounding out the company are standbys Liz McCartney and Jeremiah James and swings Colin Bradbury, John Michael Fiumara, Danielle Kelsey, and Alicia Lundgren.
The production is directed by Michael Mayer with choreography by Ellenore Scott, tap choreography by Ayodele Casel, music supervision and direction by Michael Rafter, scenic design by David Zinn, costume design by Susan Hilferty, lighting design by Kevin Adams, sound design by Brian Ronan, and hair design by Campbell Young Associates. Casting is by Jim Carnahan and Jason Thinger. The production also includes orchestrations by Chris Walker; dance, vocal, and incidental music arrangements by Alan Williams; additional arrangements by Carmel Dean and David Dabbon; music coordination by Seymour Red Press and Kimberlee Wertz; and vocal supervision by Liz Caplan.