By: Emily Duvall
Singing “Don’t Rain on My Parade” just as she did in Glee, Lea Michele took the stage as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl on Broadway on Sept. 6. The musical, which originally starred Barbara Streisand in the role of Fanny, has not run on Broadway in 58 years. The revival of the Tony Award Winning Musical first opened back up at the August Wilson Theatre in April of this year starring Beanie Feldstein as Fanny. Shortly after its reopening in early July, it was announced that Michele would take over the role.
Right before Michele’s entrance to the show was announced, Feldstein announced via Instagram that she would be leaving the show earlier than expected, on Jul. 31 instead of the scheduled Sept. 25. Although countless stars on Broadway do not stay in shows for very long, many Broadway fans found the casting situation strange and began to speculate if this was due to declining ticket sales, poor show reviews, and possible replacement by Michele.
Once news broke that Michele would join the company in September, the internet went crazy. In Glee, the Fox Television show that ran from 2009-2015, Michele starred as Rachel Berry, a high school girl who dedicates her life to her Broadway and dreams of being just like Barbara Streisand, who originated the role of Fanny Brice. Spoiler alert, in season five of Glee, Berry makes her dreams come true and debuts in the Broadway revival as Fanny Brice. In several instances throughout the show, Berry belts out “Don’t Rain on My Parade” to pay homage to Streisand. Both Broadway and Glee fans found this to be a bit ironic that worlds were colliding with such casting news.
While her debut was a major discussion point among many, Michele’s joining the cast was met with just as much backlash. During the height of the 2020 Black Lives Matter Movement, some of Michele’s ex-co-stars took to social media to discuss the actress’s rude behavior on set and discrimination against her Black co-stars. Because of this information and rumors of mistreatment towards other cast members, people were unhappy that she got cast in the show. On TikTok, some shared that the role should have gone to someone without such allegations and a typical Broadway performer.
Just four days after opening the show, Michele announced on her Instagram page that she had tested positive for COVID-19. Broadway protocols did not allow Michele to return to the theater until Sept. 20. Ironically, in Glee, Rachel takes a brief break from the show, claiming sickness while actually filming a Pilot episode of a TV show in LA, so fans found this quite amusing.
Despite controversies about being cast as Fanny, Michele is receiving critical acclaim from audiences and critics. People do not know how long Michele will star in the show, but as of now, her schedule runs through all shows except the ones on Thursday evenings.
(Sources: Broadway World, Hollywood Reporter, Vulture)
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