‘Funny Girl’- Lea Michele Fulfills Her ‘Glee’ful Destiny

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No one rained on my parade as I got the chance to see Funny Girl on Broadway at the August Wilson theatre. The musical, which made its way back on the Broadway stage after almost 60 years since the original production, brings charm, heart, and a batch of excellent comedic timing.

Funny Girl follows real life comedian and performer Fanny Brice in the early 1900’s

Fanny Brice (Lea Michele) is an established actress in New York City, starring in the Ziegfeld Follies. As she waits for the return of her husband, gambler Nick Arnstein (Ramin Karimloo), she reflects on her life and their life together. Thus, the musical is told through a series of flashbacks.

Lea Michele (Fanny Brice) and Ramin Karimloo(Nick Arnstein) in Funny Girl/ CREDIT: Matthew Murphy, 2022 .

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Initially, Beanie Feldstein played the part of Fanny, before her departure July 31. Jane Lynch starred alongside Feldstein as Fanny’s mother before being replaced by Tovah Feldshuh. Jared Grimes plays Eddie tap dancing extraordinaire, choreographer, and Fanny’s friend. 

Glitz and glamour covers a story of lost love in Funny Girl

Fanny’s story is one that goes from rags to riches. As she stumbles through young adulthood, she sticks out like a sore thumb. How will she ever fit in with the chorus of blonde, tall, and thin women? She doesn’t have to. What makes her different, her loud voice and less than typical look, makes her a hit on stage. 

Her Brooklyn home is soon replaced with glittery dresses and grandiose dance numbers. Fanny is a show-woman, and we see this through her intensity in acting unserious. All she needs is the stage, right? That changes when a suave and handsome man named Nick Arnstein enters her life.

As dancers extend their strong high-kicks and tap like their life depends on it, bright and classic tunes ring through the theater. It felt like the golden age of Broadway fell right onto my lap. And I had the lucky opportunity to run with it. Looking between the lines, we see a story about a woman’s deep love for a man who is far from easy to love. No amount of fame can distract Fanny from her tiring efforts to make a life with Nick. 

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Jared Grimes (Eddie Ryan) in Funny Girl/ CREDIT: Matthew Murphy, 2022

Lea Michele brings new life to Fanny 

Lea Michele’s road to Fanny is an interesting one. The actress, having made her Broadway debut in the original production of Spring Awakening, has an adoration for the musical and Barbra Streisand who originated the role. In her iconic role as Rachel Berry in Glee, fans watched as the character’s dreams came true, playing Fanny Brice in a revival of the show on Broadway. Who would’ve thought that more than 10 years later, Lea Michele would follow in Rachel Berry’s footsteps. 

While Michele was not the first actress to star as Fanny in the revival, she brings a new beginning to the role. There’s no question her voice transcends; each song she effortlessly belts with no sign of voice exhaustion. For a Glee fan like myself, seeing Lea Michele step into a role that I saw her perform on screen, feels very meta. Life imitates art.

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However, Michele now brings a mature energy, like she’s reflecting on her own career. You can hear the age in the voice; her vocals exude strength. As a wife and mother herself, the actress offers a new perspective of Fanny. She’s a woman who has the career of her dreams, but all she wants is to love and be loved by one man. While the idea of a woman dropping everything to support the integrity of a man might be outdated, Fanny’s pure love shines through with Michele’s careful portrayal. Lea Michele is no longer Rachel Berry playing Fanny Brice. She’s an actress on the tails of one of the highest points in her career.

The actors surrounding Michele only heighten the talent. We have the charming nature and silky vocals of Ramin Karimloo, the wit of Tovah Feldshuh, the star-quality energy of Jared Grimes, and the picture perfect performance of the ensemble. 

‘Don’t Rain On My Parade’ is still a hit 

One of the most important musical numbers of the show, if not the most important, is ‘Don’t Rain On My Parade.’ Sure, Michele is no stranger to the song, singing it in the season 1 of Glee. This time though, Lea Michele is older, stronger, and ready to take on the Broadway spotlight. 

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Lea Michele (Fanny Brice) in Funny Girl/ CREDIT: Matthew Murphy, 2022

During the number, her voice never faltered. She held every belt, full of force. I flashed back to my younger days, like I was staring at the TV, watching Lea Michele sing the song on Glee for the first time. The number, along with plenty of others Michele performed received standing ovations. 

With the rebirth of Funny Girl, Lea Michele radiates as a leading lady with the voice that says hello to a new generation and welcomes the return of the classic Broadway.

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