The Beanie Feldstein/Lea Michele Funny Girl Saga, Explained
The Beanie Feldstein/Lea Michele Funny Girl Saga, Explained
What should have been a simple casting changeover is anything but.
Broadway fans have been knee-deep in drama following Monday’s announcement that Lea Michele would be taking over the coveted role of Fanny Brice in Funny Girl, following Beanie Feldstein’s departure. Switching out cast members is a perfectly common practice in theater, and not something that would normally draw more than a “thank you” to the departing cast member and a “welcome” to the new, but the situation with Funny Girl is a little more complicated than that.
August 2021: Funny Girl revival announced, starring Beanie Feldstein.
When rumors of the Broadway revival of Funny Girl first began swirling, speculation on who might be cast in the role popularized by Barbra Streisand was all over the place. But Michele, who rose to theatrical fame in Spring Awakening and whose Glee character actually booked the role of Fanny in the show’s fictionalized take on Broadway, was heavily considered a frontrunner.
Feldstein being cast in the role was somewhat of a surprise — despite previously appearing in the revival of Hello, Dolly!, she has primarily been seen as a screen actor.
“The first time I played Fanny Brice was at my third birthday party, in a head-to-toe leopard print outfit my mom made for me,” she said in a statement at the time. “So, it’s safe to say that stepping into this iconic role, on Broadway and not in my family’s backyard, is truly my lifelong dream come true.”
Even then, Twitter speculation turned from who might be cast to how Michele may have been reacting to the news that it wasn’t going to be her.
\u201clea michele rn after finding out the news about beanie feldstein in the funny girl revival\u201d— kim! :) (@kim! :)) 1628707240
April 2022: Funny Girl opens.
The revival opened in spring of 2022 to reviews that can ultimately be best summed up as “fine.” Many acknowledged the difficulties of casting anyone to follow Streisand, let alone in a role playing another iconic stage actress. Feldstein was complimented for her comedy work while noting her singing — the part fans had previously been concerned about — just wasn’t up to the challenges of the show.
“Unfortunately for Feldstein, [Jane Lynch’s] casting serves as a reminder that Lea Michele, who publicly semi-gunned for the role for over a decade, can nail Don’t Rain on My Parade,” wrote Adrian Horton for The Guardian.
May-June 2022: The production struggles.
It quickly became clear that Funny Girl just wasn’t making the impact expected for such a big name revival. Notably, the show was snubbed by the Tony Awards, receiving only a single nomination for Jared Grimes’ featured performance.
Fans expressed frustration over negative or mediocre reviews of Feldstein’s performance, and in June, she began missing shows after testing positive for COVID.
June 2022: Beanie announces she’s leaving the show.
By the middle of June, it was announced that both Feldstein and Lynch would be departing the show on September 25, five months after it opened.
\u201cBeanie Feldstein to depart from \u2018Funny Girl\u2019 on Broadway on September 25.\u201d— Pop Crave (@Pop Crave) 1655330031
“I’ll never be able to find the words that could even begin to explain what the experience has been to me,” she wrote on Instagram. “I gave and will continue to give this show all of me. I am immensely proud to be a bagel on a plate full of onion rolls. I am so deeply grateful for every other bagel that comes to Henry Street with us every night. Can’t wait to see you all there through September.”
July 2022: Lea Michele cast as Beanie’s replacement.
As soon as Feldstein’s departure was announced, speculation that Michele would take over the role kicked up. On Monday, July 11, Broadway fans impatiently awaited the news that felt like it had been years in the making, and sure enough, it came.
\u201cEmmy Award-nominee LEA MICHELE and Tony Award-nominee TOVAH FELDSHUH join #FUNNYGIRL beginning September 6!\n\nDon\u2019t miss Beanie Feldstein until July 31 only, followed by @JujujulieBee through September 4.\n\nSee you at the August Wilson, gorgeous!\u2b50\ufe0f\u201d— Funny Girl on Broadway (@Funny Girl on Broadway) 1657558804
And with it came the surprising news that Feldstein would be departing the show almost two full months before initially planned, and that Lynch’s final performance will take place before her former Glee co-star takes over as Brice.
And the jokes.
\u201cjane lynch leaving the day lea michele is set to start is the most sue sylvester icon behavior extravaganza i have ever laid witness to\u201d— Kyleigh (@Kyleigh) 1657559167
\u201cLiza Minnelli has outlived Lea Michele\u2019s unfulfilled dream to play Fanny Brice in \u201cFunny Girl.\u201d The \u201cGlee\u201d star, who was notoriously passed over originally, will finally get her chance in the Broadway revival this September.\u201d— LizaMinnelliOutlives (@LizaMinnelliOutlives) 1657558812
\u201clea michele made a deal with the devil so she could be in funny girl on broadway\u2026 she\u2019s like ariel but instead of trading her voice she traded the ability to read\u201d— freya (@freya) 1657499642
While some Glee fans are thrilled about Michele finally taking on the role of Brice, others soon pointed to previous accusations of bad behavior on set and expressed frustration that she got the part all the same.
\u201cIf Lea Michele proves anything is that:\n\nCancel culture is not real\n\nBeing white and racist means you can still achieve your dreams!\u201d— Valerie Complex (@Valerie Complex) 1657560092
\u201cI understand that people deserve second chances and need room to grow but Lea Michele has been proven time and time again to be a racist egomaniac and a complete bully. It\u2019s disgusting to see her get away with her BS and be REWARDED for her behavior. #LeaMicheleisracist\u201d— MaJesstic11 (@MaJesstic11) 1657561400
\u201cLea Michele after arriving on set of Broadway\u2019s \u2018Funny Girl\u2019 to bully everyone on set like did on Glee\u201d— Steven (@Steven) 1657559623
Regardless of outrage online and from former co-stars, Michele will still appearing in Funny Girl starting September 6. Until then, you can catch Feldstein through July 31, followed by her heavily praised understudy, Julie Benko until Michele takes the reins.