It’s been a long and winding road for Michele, who has been rumored to be replacing Beanie Feldstein as Fanny Brice, the role originated by Barbra Streisand, for the past month. Fans have been speculating, tabloids have been starting rumorsand Gawker reported Michele’s casting a few weeks ago. Today, though, the official Funny Girl Twitter account shared the news.
Feldstein was initially slated to step away from the role in September; However, late last night, the actress moved her exit date up to July 31. Michele will step in for the role on September 6. In the meantime, understudy Julie Benko will be subbing in for the lead role.
Fellow Glee co-star Jane Lynch will also be leaving this September, with Tony-nominee Tovah Feldshuh set to replace her.
“A dream come true is an understatement,” Michele shared on her Instagram account, in a post about the casting news. “I’m so incredibly honored to join this amazing cast and production and return to the stage playing Fanny Brice on Broadway.” Michele’s Funny Girl debut will mark her first starring role in a Broadway show since 2008, when she left Spring Awakening.
A self-proclaimed “Streisand Worshiper,” Michele has been gunning for a role (rather, the lead role) in Funny Girl since her days on Gleewhere “Don’t Rain on My Parade” became central to her character’s storyline.
She even, in what was considered a public audition for the role, performed the showstopper at the Tony Awards in 2010:
Fans of the show were revved up all day waiting for the Funny Girl announcement, sharing memes about the actress in anticipation of whatever casting news was released.
So, when the news about Michele’s casting finally dropped Monday, you could imagine the storm of tweets that were unleashed. Fans were enthralled, but also couldn’t believe the news. The reaction was split between glee (heh) and dismay.
While we’d hate to rain on everyone’s parade—cheesy, yes, but I had to make at least one reference—Michele starring in Funny Girl isn’t exactly being celebrated by everyone. Co-stars from Spring Awakening have stated that Michele was “nothing but a nightmare” During the production, saying that the star was “absolutely awful” every step of the way. Given the allegations against her, some wonder whether she is deserving a major redemption and opportunity like this one.
Perhaps it’s easy to write off Michele as a “mean diva,” and that everyone on Broadway is like this. But a few summers ago, Michele’s Glee co-stars said there’s an even darker side to the actress, one that’s, allegedly, cruelly racist and transphobic. Though Michele has denied the claims, enough Glee stars have spoken out to put a blow to her credibility.
travel, she persisted. Michele most recently starred in a Spring Awakening reunion concert for charity, which HBO spun into a full-blown documentary. It was shrewd timing. Critics were reminded of, and plenty fawned over, just how talented Michele is—and in interviews with the filmmakers, she was undeniably charming. The warm reception she received performing with the Spring Awakening cast at this year’s Tonys laid strategic groundwork for a major comeback.
But there’s no denying the ugliness in how all of this went down. Feldstein was all but bullied out of her role before her original contract was supposed to be over, and the wording in the announcement that she was leaving early—“once production decided to take the show in a different direction”—suggests at least some acrimony. (According to Page Six, Funny Girl producers were “blindsided” by Feldstein’s announcement on Sunday night.)
This big return to Broadway via Funny Girl warrants another bombshell documentary. Or, considering that both Feldstein and Michele are both Ryan Murphy-minted darlings, Feud Season 3?