The former “Glee” actress Lea Michele finally made her Broadway debut in the “Funny Girl” revival on a dismal, rainy Tuesday in Manhattan, but that did not dampen her spirits. The audience at the August Wilson Theatre rose to its feet as soon as Lea Michele stepped onto the stage, making it impossible to hear the show’s iconic opening line, “Hello, lovely,” before she could even sing a note in her crystalline soprano. There would be a total of six standing ovations for her, with the last one rocking the very foundations of the building.
Lea Michele has spent a significant chunk of her career (unofficially) advocating for the opportunity to portray the dazzling comedian and chanteuse Fanny Brice on stage, so this is a long time coming. While playing Rachel Berry on “Glee,” she became famous for her incessant singing of “Funny Girl” songs including “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” “I’m the Greatest Star,” and “People.” This is your public audition tape.
The public, both famous and not, showed there in droves. There was a full house of Gleeks, but also Lea Michele’s best friend and former “Spring Awakening” co-star Jonathan Groff (who rocked back and forth rhythmically whenever the actress was on stage, sobbing at various points, and jumping up to lead each ovation), her old “Glee” boss Ryan Murphy, Zachary Quinto, Drew Barrymore, Harvey Fierstein (fresh from delivering yet another polish on the show’s sometimes creaky book), and producer Jane The crowd was definitely rooting for Michele, and she probably won’t find another audience as anxious to see her succeed.
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Gleeks come first, people come second, says 24-year-old Julianna DeAngelis. Lea Michele’s rendition of ‘Don’t Rain on my Parade’ was a staple of my upbringing. She and her friend Fiona Castro, who also went to see “Funny Girl,” paid $250 to see the revival.
Castro, who is 24, said, “We would have certainly spent more.” With all that has happened with the revival, this is truly a historic time.
Over the last 12 months, “Funny Girl” has been the subject of several news stories. In its first Broadway revival in six decades, the show cast “Booksmart” actress Beanie Feldstein as the Ziegfeld’s Follies star who falls for the wrong guy, instead of Michele. Unfortunately, Feldstein’s portrayal was received with unimpressive reviews, a lack of Tony Award adoration, and inevitable comparisons to Barbra Streisand’s landmark performance.
After receiving scathing reviews, there were speculations that Michele was being considered for the lead part to help improve ticket sales. Feldstein quit “Funny Girl” two months early after the Michele casting was announced because the producer wanted to “push the production in a new way.”
Lea Michele’s triumphant comeback to Broadway has not been met without its share of critics. After former “Glee” cast member Samantha Marie Ware accused Michele of “traumatic microaggressions” that created a toxic set environment, Michele mostly withdrew from public view in 2020. In retrospect, Michele said she was sorry for her “actions and for any sorrow which I have caused.”
On Tuesday, though, the musical’s onstage conflict finally took center stage for the first time in weeks.
Fanny’s hot boyfriend Nicky Arnstein, played by Ramin Karimloo, has avoided the drama occurring offstage.
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In an interview with Variety before the play’s opening night, he said, “From what I’m collecting, since I didn’t grow up with ‘Funny Girl,’ this music has influenced a lot of people, and it’s something that’s generally on their mind for a long time.” I am completely unaware of “Glee.” Hearing Lea Michele sing for the first time was a life-changing experience since I had never heard her perform before. Regarding Michele’s impression of Brice, he said, “it’s so effective” that “she wants to delve into the romance.”
He accurately predicted that one particular song would have the crowd on its feet. “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” which I assume she performed on the program that everyone speaks about, “blows the roof off,” he adds. I can’t help but get up and move when she sings.
Lea Michele sobbing through her first curtain call in #FunnyGirl pic.twitter.com/twFVaIU5eV
— Rebecca Rubin (@rebeccaarubin) September 7, 2022
During the interval, several audience members commented positively on Lea Michele’s singing and the lively atmosphere. Fans rushed to the stage entrance after the show ended to get the last look at Lea Michele, who had taken a bunch of white roses and waved sadly to the crowd. There, a throng of fans gathered to have Michele autograph posters and Playbills.
Marlenn Sabbagh, a 21-year-old patron, felt the show was just as good as she had heard it would be.
I’ve been going to the theatre my entire life, and this was the nicest experience I’ve ever had, said Sabbagh. We had an unbelievable turnout. The vibes were incredible. As a child, I was never a fan of Justin Bieber. My Justin Bieber concert is right here.