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HELLO GORGEOUS!!! It’s been many years of rumors, development plans, and so much more…. now it’s all come to this!!! THE GREATEST STAR is back!!! It has been officially announced that Golden Globe Award nominee Beanie Feldstein (Booksmart and last seen on the Great Bright Way in the recent revival of Hello, Dolly) has officially been tapped to star in the highly anticipated long awaited Broadway revival of FUNNY GIRL beginning Spring 2022!!
Feldstein will take on the musical’s iconic role of celebrated comedic versatile entertainer “Fanny Brice”, the role made famous 58 years ago by the iconic Barbra Streisand.
This revival of the classic Jule Styne, Bob Merrill, and Isobel Lennart will be a Broadway production of the recent 2015 London revival. This production premiered at London’s Menier Chocolate Factory and later transferred to the West End at the Savoy Theatre a year later before touring the UK. That production’s creative team will include….
Direction by Tony Award winner Michael Mayer (Broadway’s original Spring Awakening, Thoroughly Modern Millie, HEDWIG, Head Over Heels, and the current Off Broadway revival of Little Shop of Horrors),
Choreography by Ellenore Scott (Broadway’s Head Over Heels, TV’s So You Think You Can Dance, and the current Broadway revival of Little Shop of Horrors),
Musical direction by Emmy Award winner Michael Rafter (TV film version of Gypsy, Broadway’s Thoroughly Modern Millie, Swing, the 1996 revival of The King and I),
an updated book by Tony Award winner Harvey Fierstein (Broadway’s La Cage Aux Folles, Torch Song, Hairspray, Newsies, Kinky Boots, and so much more),
sets by Tony Award winner David Zinn (Broadway’s Fun Home and the upcoming The Minutes),
and
so much more.
Additional casting, start time, and a Theater will be announced at a later time.
Now in case anyone may not be familiar with FUNNY GIRL, it’s set in New York City around the year of 1910 prior before World War 1. the story centers on the rise and fame of acclaimed versatile entertainer Fanny Brice. It also follows her stormy relationship with entrepreneur, gambler, and womanizer Nick Arnstein. It features an iconic score by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill and book by Isobel Lennart. Notable songs include I’M THE GREATEST STAR, PEOPLE, YOU ARE WOMAN, WHO ARE YOU NOW, THE MUSIC THAT MAKES ME DANCE, MY MAN, and of course the show’s signature song…. DON’T RAIN ON MY PARADE.
The musical was first conceived by Ray Stark, (the son-in-law to Fanny Brice via his marriage to her daughter Frances). He originally wrote an official authorized biography of Fanny Brice’s life based on taped recollections she had dictated. However, he was unhappy with the result. It cot him $50,000 to stop publication of the book entitled THE FABULOUS FANNY.
He then turned Hollywood screenplay writer Ben Hecht on creating a film about Fanny’s life. However, Hecht nor the ten writers who succeeded him were able to produce a version that pleased Stark. Finally, Isobel Lennart submitted the perfect script for the film pleasing both Stark and Columbia Pictures executives, who offered Stark $400,000 plus a percentage of the gross for the property. The original film was initially called MY MAN (named after a real life song by Maurice Yvain, Jacques-Charles, Albert Willemetz, and Channing Pollock which later would later be part of the iconic 1968 film version of FUNNY GIRL). The screenplay got the attention of acclaimed performer Mary Martin, who contacted Ray Stark, and proposed to him an idea that it should be a stage musical instead. Immediately, Stark contacted Broadway producer David Merrick who suggested that Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim would do the score. However, Sondheim was not pleased of the idea of having Fanny being played by Mary Martin since she was NOT Jewish. Martin herself heard Sondheim’s response which caused her to loose interest in the project and dropped out. Sondheim dropped out from co-composing and was replaced by Dorothy Fields and then eventually ended up with Bob Merrill. In addition, the original director of the musical was the acclaimed Broadway director and choreographer Jerome Robbins.
For the lead role of Fanny Brice, several actresses were initially on board for the project including….
Anne Bancroft (however, she dropped due to being disappointed with the score not suiting her voice),
Eydie Gormé (however, she dropped due to the creative team being disappointed with NOT casting her husband Steve Lawrence as Nick Arnstein),
and
Burnett was interested in the project but really suggested that if the team could find an amazing talent that can play the role, look for a performer who was Jewish. With a list of suggestions running out, a lightbulb lit up for Jule Styne. He recalled attending a performance of I CAN GET IT FOR YOU WHOLESALE and there was a standout performer in that cast…. a 19 year old Barbra Streisand. At the time, Streisand was performing at the Bon Soir in Greenwich Village. He was impressed with her performance but was not impressed with her looks. After a brief argument with his wife, Styne hired Barbra Streisand on the spot.
In addition, there was even was more behind the scenes drama including a full argument between Jerome Robbins vs. Isobel Lennart about the screenplay not being a viable book for a stage musical. Ray Stark refused of all this which caused BOTH Robbins to quit the project and the musical was put back on the shelves temporarily.
A few years later, work on FUNNY GIRL continued. David Merrick hired another set of directors to the production including Bob Fosse and then eventually went to Garson Kanin. From there, Merrick he bowed out and Stark became sole Broadway Producer.
Meanwhile, Barbra Streisand was NOT happy about Garson Kanin’s new direction and was used to working with Jerome Robbins. During rehearsals, Kanin initially insisted on cutting PEOPLE from the musical because it didn’t fit the character. However, the song was already recorded as a single. Luckily, Kanin agreed to let it remain based on audience reaction to it.
The musical had its world premiere Pre-Broadway tryout engagements in both Boston and Philadelphia. Both engagements dealt with tons of negative reviews on the score and book…. including that the show was way too long. However, critics praised the performers (especially Streisand). The creative team kept working on the score and book delaying the New York run…. 5 times. However, the hard work paid off.
FUNNY GIRL officially opened in 1964 at Broadway’s Winter Garden Theatre (later transferred to the Majestic Theatre and the Broadway Theatre) where it ran for 17 previews and 1,348 performances. It was an instant smash. Under the direction of Garson Kanin and choreographed by Carol Haney (under the supervision of Jerome Robbins), the cast was led by…
Barbra Streisand (later Mimi Hines) as “Fanny Brice”,
Sydney Chaplin (later George Reeder, and Johnny Desmond) as “Nick Arnstein”,
Kay Medford (later Fritzi Burr) as “Mrs. Brice”.
Danny Meehan (later Phil Ford) as “Eddie Ryan”,
Jean Stapleton (later Beulah Garrick and Elizabeth Moore) as “Mrs. Strakosh”,
and
Roger De Koven (later Alan Manson and William Larsen) as “Florenz Ziegfeld Jr.”
The musical was nominated for 8 Tony Awards in 1964 including BEST MUSICAL, BEST LEADING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL (for Barbra Streisand, and BEST LEADING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL (for Sydney Chaplin). However, it lost all the categories.
The musical’s original Broadway cast recording also went on to top the charts. It debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200 and achieved gold record status.
FUNNY GIRL would later go on to become a smash hit in London’s West End (featuring Streisand briefly playing the role of “Fanny Brice” till she got pregnant), Australia, several National Tours, and productions all around the world.
FUNNY GIRL was last done on a New York stage as a one night only concert production to raise money for The Actors Fund in 2002 at Broadway’s New Amsterdam Theatre (where the story of FUNNY GIRL takes place). Under the direction of Peter Flynn and conducted by Seth Rudetsky, it was known for having a different actress play the role of “Fanny Brice” in a different scene. Several of the “Fanny’s” included….
It also included Peter Gallagher as “Nick Arnstein”.
Plans and rumors of this overdue Broadway revival of FUNNY GIRL have been speculating the Theater community since the 2010 era.
Initially a Broadway revival was supposed to come in 2012 at the Imperial Theatre. Under the direction for Tony Award winner Bartlett Sheer, the production was supposed to star Lauren Ambrose as “Fanny Brice”. However, the production was postponed due to economic finances being low.
In 2014, Ryan Murphy initially was eyeing interest in producing a full scale revival of FUNNY GIRL based on what was seen on his acclaimed Award winning smash hit musical TV series Glee. As many of us know, GLEE did majority of all the great songs from the musical (including DON’T RAIN ON MY PARADE, I’M THE GREATEST STAR, and FUNNY GIRL). On the series, it was the fictional Broadway debut of the main character of “Rachel Berry”. For the actual Ryan Murphy produced revival, he was planning on casting Lea Michele (who plays “Rachel Berry” on GLEE) in a Broadway comeback….as “Fanny Brice”. However, nothing ever came of the production.
In 2018, talks were made that Rosie O’donnell has come on board to the new revival playing the role of “Mrs. Brice” (the mother of “Fanny). For the lead role, it was rumored that Grammy and Oscar winning recording artist Lady Gaga would star as “Fanny Brice” following to the success of her performance in the movie musical remake of A Star is Born,
and
early of last year in 2020, another rumor came about that this revival would be led by Tony winner Idina Menzel as “Fanny”. Sadly, didn’t work out.
With FUNNY GIRL being a smash hit on stage, it’s also an iconic movie musical that is still loved by Musical Theater fans everywhere. The original film was released in 1968 from Columbia Pictures.
When it was time to make the film, studio executives were really strict and thought Barbra Streisand wasn’t at that level yet to lead a major motion picture. They wanted to cast a bigger and more established Hollywood actress in the role of “Fanny Brice”. Initially, it was given to Shirley MacClaine. However, Ray Stark (who also produced the film) insisted on Barbra Streisand. From there, they got her and Barbra’s career rose even higher…..
Under the direction of William Wyler, the original film version of FUNNY GIRL starred….
Barbra Streisand reprising her performance as “Fanny Brice”,
Omar Shariff as “Nick Arnstein”,
Kay Medford reprising her performance as “Mrs. Brice”.
Lee Allen as “Eddie Ryan”,
Mae Questel as “Mrs. Strakosh”,
and
Walter Pidgeon as “Florenz Ziegfeld Jr.”
The film went on to be nominated for 8 Academy Awards in 1969 including BEST PICTURE. However, it took home only 1 for BEST ACTRESS for Barbra Streisand….. historically tying with Katharine Hepburn in The Lion in Winter.
Later on there would be a movie musical sequel to FUNNY GIRL entitled FUNNY LADY with Barbra Streisand reprising her role of “Fanny Brice” which was released in 1975. In that sequel, it follows Fanny’s life following her divorce from Nick Arnstein to her marriage to songwriter and impresario Billy Rose. It went on to get several Oscar nominations but lost that year.
Most recently, that acclaimed 2015 West End revival of FUNNY GIRL (that’s coming to Broadway) was filmed in 2018 during its UK tour run at the Manchester Opera House from Trafaglar. Under the direction of Michael Mayer, it was led by….
Sheridan Smith as “Fanny Brice”,
Darius Campbell as “Nick Arnstein”,
Rachel Izen as “Mrs. Brice”,
Joshua Lay as “Eddie Ryan”,
Nigel Barber as “Florenz Ziegfeld”,
and more.
We’re cannot wait to GET READY FOR HER LOVE, CAUSE SHE’S A COMER!!!!
Congrats Beanie!!! So happy and cannot wait to welcome you back to Broadway!!!
Who is excited?!!!!

 

Mike Haber
Author: Mike Haber

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