After months of speculation, rumors and memes, it’s official: Lea Michele is Fanny Brice.
Beginning September 6, the former “Glee” star will star in “Funny Girl,” in the current Broadway revival of the musical that made Barbra Streisand famous. Michele arrives on the show after original lead actress Beanie Feldstein announced her early departure from production, saying producers would take her in “a different direction” (“Glee” fans might call it a new direction).
Although this is her first official direction of a Funny Girl production, Michele has long been associated with the musical and has publicly expressed her desire to one day star in it. In conversation with diversity Earlier this year, for the documentary Spring Awakening, Michele said she spent the whole night talking about Funny Girl with Glee creator Ryan Murphy when she first met him. In a 2017 interview with Andy Cohen on Watch What Happens Live, Michele was open about her desire to direct a revival of the show and claimed that they had plans for one after Glee ended.
“Glee,” which made Michele a household name, was also her platform to show off her bonafides of Fanny Brice. Her character, highly ambitious theater kid Rachel Berry, was a Streisand fanatic, and over the course of the series she sang almost the entire score of Funny Girl.
Notably, Season 5 of the show featured an expanded storyline where Rachel, who left high school and lived in New York, landed the lead role on Funny Girl. The storyline came to a head in the episode “Opening Night,” where Rachel’s Broadway dreams came true when she performed “I’m the Greatest Star” onstage. The episode also starred prominently as Jane Lynch, who will leave Funny Girl on Broadway before Michele’s official debut. In the “Glee” storyline, her character Sue Sylvester walks in the middle of Rachel’s Broadway debut – further proof that reality is mimicking “Glee.”
Of course, Glee isn’t the only way Michele credited the Funny Girl soundtrack. The actor has also performed the songs from the show at many concerts, fundraisers, and other events. Here are future Fanny’s most notable Funny Girl performances.
“I am the biggest star”
“I’m the Greatest Star” was first performed in Chris Colfer’s “Glee” in Season 3, but the most iconic rendition of the song comes from Michele on “Opening Night,” as Rachel makes her triumphant Broadway debut. The scene is arguably the culmination of Rachel’s character arc on the show and a showcase for Michele’s comedic and vocal skills.
Michele’s “Glee” rendition of “People” comes in the episode “New New York” as Rachel prepares for premiere night of Funny Girl. Michele plays the Standard – which became a hit single for Streisand – in a montage that shows the cast adjusting to life in New York.
“You are a woman, I am a man”
Michele, another Funny Girl snippet from Rachel’s Broadway debut story, performs this duet in the episode “The End of Twerk,” along with guest star Ioan Gruffudd, whose character Paolo stars alongside Rachel as Funny Girl lead Nick Arnstein is cast.
“Don’t rain on my parade”
In Glee, Michele memorably performed “Don’t Rain on My Parade” in the season 1 episode “Sectionals” during New Directions’ first major competition as a club. Michele’s performance of this stirring anthem, the act one closer to Funny Girl, is often considered one of the best performances in the long-running series.
At the 2010 Tony Awards, Michele celebrated the success of “Glee” by singing “Don’t Rain on My Parade” at the ceremony, in a performance featuring a cameo appearance of her Spring Awakening and Glee co-stars -Stars Jonathan Groff.
“Who are you now?”
“Who are you now?” – traditionally an Act II song in Funny Girl but the revival’s opening number – is also performed during the opening night episode of Glee, but in an unconventional way. The emotional ballad, a solo number for Fanny, is instead performed as a duet between Michele and Lynch while Sue imagines herself singing onstage during the performance – a foretaste of a “Glee” Broadway reunion that almost would be.
Although “My Man” isn’t included in the score of the original Funny Girl musical or the current revival, it’s arguably one of the songs most closely associated with the show, thanks to the 1968 film version in which it was the closing number is. Michele gave a great rendition of the torch song in the Glee season 2 episode “Funeral,” where she performs it for an audition while imagining her love interest Finn Hudson (Cory Monteith).
Michele would also perform “My Man” live in 2012 as a tribute to her idol, Streisand.
Michele has performed the song in various other capacities, including at the 2017 Broadway outdoor music festival Elsie Fest.