A stormy Tuesday in New York City surely didn’t rain on Lea Michele’s parade as the “Glee” star made her long-awaited debut on Sept. 6 in the revival of “Funny Girl.” Fans of the musical TV series Glee, or, as they like to call themselves, “gleeks,” are lining up everywhere to see Michele play the iconic Fanny Brice.
Many say that Michele’s role in Glee prepared her to play Fanny Brice. According to the Playbill website, “Funny Girl” is a classic musical that depicts a girl named Fanny Brice, a Lower East Side native who dreams of being on stage. Throughout the musical, Fanny is faced with many people telling her she is not good enough or cannot achieve her dream.
Michele made her striking debut at the August Wilson Theater on W. 52nd Street. According to the New York Post, Michele was brought on after poor reviews and declining box office sales. The show was not making nearly as much in ticket sales as it did when it was first on Broadway in 1964.
In an interview with The New York Times, Michele talked about how she felt “more ready than ever” to play Fanny Brice. She feels honored and humbled to play a role that was originally held by Barbara Streisand.
Michele’s impact was immediately felt at the box office. According to Rolling Stone, “Michele’s Sept. 6 debut date almost entirely sold out after the house had previously only played to 65% capacity.”
Then, Covid-19 struck, which sidelined Michele and a large portion of the cast for up to ten days. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Michele said, “We are almost on the other side of this and our swings and understudies are doing such an incredible job to keep our show on its feet.”
“Funny Girl” is not Michele’s first Broadway show. One can say that Broadway is Michele’s second home. Michele started her career at the age of eight on Broadway playing Cosette in “Les Misérables” and then went on to play Wendla Bergmann in “Spring Awakening.” Her rise to fame began when she landed the lead role on the award-winning Fox TV series “Glee.”
Michele spent most of her time on “Glee” inadvertently manifesting playing the bubbly and optimistic Fanny Brice. Michele’s character, Rachel Barry, was depicted as a “Funny Girl” superfan, singing numerous songs from the musical, including the beloved “Don’t Rain on My Parade.”
“It’s surreal as a ‘Glee’ fan to see Lea Michele playing Fanny Brice in ‘Funny Girl,’ it’s like every ‘Glee’ fan’s dream,” said sophomore and glee superfan, Jenna Vargas. “Lea Michele is the only person that can hold a candle to Barbara Streisand.”
Sophomore Marisa Carbone was fortunate enough to get to see the production during Michele’s opening week.
“When she came out, I literally sat there and fought back tears. She is amazing at what she does. She has a stage presence that captivates an audience,” Carbone said. “I hope to see it over and over again!”
According to Variety, the crowd was on their feet before Michele could even sing a note. Many celebrity guests came to support Michele, including her best friend and “Glee” co-star Jonathan Groff. Other celebrity guests included Drew Barrymore and Harvey Fierstein.
Even the recent diagnosis of Covid that has side-lined her for ten days has not curtailed the enthusiasm which has resulted in increased box office sales.