Official: Lauren Ambrose -- not Lea Michele -- to star in Broadway revival of 'Funny Girl'


Image Credit: Sam Handel

It’s official: Broadway’s new Funny Girl will be played by Six Feet Under star Lauren Ambrose. After speculation earlier this week that Ambrose was in talks for the role, the production confirmed the casting with a release detailing how the revival will open for a short run at Los Angeles’ Ahmanson Theatre from Jan. 15 through Feb. 26 before hitting Broadway in New York City in the spring of 2012. Ambrose will, of course, be taking on the iconic role of Fanny Brice, a character Barbra Streisand made famous in the show’s original Broadway run, beginning in 1964 for 1,348 performances, as well as the 1968 movie version.

“Let’s face it, there is obviously more than a lot to live up to playing Fanny Brice, but I am humbled and thrilled by the opportunity to be a part of this revival,” Ambrose said in a statement. “The character is complex, the music beautiful and challenging. I can’t wait to get into that rehearsal room with the team [director] Bart [Sher] is assembling — wish we could start tomorrow!” 

The interesting twist in all this, of course, is that nearly everyone (including us here at EW!) had eyed Glee star Lea Michele for the role, especially after she memorably and dramatically belted Funny Girl standard “Don’t Rain on My Parade” at the 2010 Tony Awards and, in February of this year, performed “My Man” from the show at the annual MusiCares Person of the Year gala dinner, an annual Grammy tradition. (Michele also performed “My Man” in the May 17 “Funeral” episode of Glee this year.) It seems that she was indeed toying with trying to take on the role of Fanny Brice, but her Glee schedule wouldn’t allow it. “There was some very preliminary exploration about her doing it,” a rep for Michele said when contacted by EW, “however she was not available for the production dates so it became a moot point.”

For his part, director Bartlett Sher is already trying to shield Ambrose from the avalanche of comparisons to Barbra Streisand that are sure to come when the show opens. “It’s important that people not see this casting process as trying to find the next Barbra Streisand,” Sher said in a statement. “She is one of a kind. Instead, I really needed someone with whom I could explore the original music and come to terms with Fanny Brice for a new era.”

Ambrose is no stage novice. She’s appeared on Broadway in Awake and Sing! and Exit the King; starred in Shakespeare in the Park productions of Romeo & Juliet and Hamlet; and performed in Buried Child at the National Theatre in London. In fact, there’s video evidence that Ambrose is familiar with the music from Funny Girl, as she’s performed “My Man” at NYC’s cabaret Joe’s Pub.

What do you think of the casting? Is Ambrose the right choice to fill Streisand’s — I mean, Lea Michele’s… I mean, Fanny Brice’s — shoes? Should the casting have gone to Michele instead? Or do you have a better suggestion? Sound off below!

Tanner on Twitter: @EWTanStransky

Read more:
‘Funny Girl': Should Lea Michele be the new Fanny Brice? (Should anyone?)

Comments (74 total) Add your comment
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  • BFD

    Glad they’re going with someone with more comic timing. Fanny Brice brought a schtick from Yiddish Theater that had never been seen much in the larger audience of America before.

  • azjeff

    I didn’t know Lauren Ambrose could sing. I wish they’d wait for Lea, but I’d love to see Lauren in the role.

  • Bobby’s Robot

    This is kind of shocking – I’m a fan and I know she can act it, but had no idea she had the voice to carry it off.

    • Charlotte

      No kidding. I like her too, but I was really picturing Lea Michelle in the role.

      • BROTHERLY LOVE!!!!!!

        because of her nose?

    • Flip

      “You…you ride up my thighs…”

      • Meg


      • TorontoTom

        YES! One of my FAVORITE moments from Six Feet Under was when Claire belted out ‘You Light Up My Life’ as an homage to her pantyhose at her office cubicle/deathbed.

  • Magi

    I think she’s a great actress…will listen to how she sings tho. I think she has great potential to do well in this role. I’m not a fan of Lea Michelle’s acting because I prefer subtlety over over-emoting.

    • A

      And talent. I like my actresses to have *acting* talent.

      • Kris

        Really? Cause you clearly don’t have an eye for it.

      • Tarc

        Agreed. Apparently, you wouldn;t know acting talent if it tied you up and spanked you (which it kinda already did).

    • Edwin

      Agree with this. I don’t think over expressing your face and talking loudly constitutes a good actress. Glad they picked someone low key.

      • Cara

        The ironic thing is, being big is *good* in theater — actors need their emotions to carry all the way to the nosebleed seats. So basically, you think Lea Michele hasn’t sufficiently toned down her theater habits for the small screen… (I think Mr. Schue is even worse at that, BTW. Michele doesn’t bother me, but he does.)
        So if Lauren Ambrose comes across as subtle on the small screen, she’s really going to have to amp it up on stage. I’m not saying she can’t and won’t — but judging how good someone’s stage acting will be based on their TV acting is iffy if what you’re objecting to is overacting. :-)

      • A

        Completely agree with Cara.

      • Jess

        Um, you guys do know Lea is wait for it. . .directed *gasp* to be that way, because of how her character is portrayed? And to think you guys have an eye for talent.

    • KSM

      I’m pretty sure that is more of a requirement of the character than the actress herself.

    • Captain

      There is no subtlety in theater sweetheart. Do you honestly believe that someone at the back of the theater can see a subtle facial expression? Lea Michele is a broadway actress which is why she can be over-the-top at times, it’s what she knows. This is what would make her perfect for the role. And anyone who says she wasn’t born for this role is just kidding themselves.

      • Kev

        In that case I hope she sticks to theater and leave the big and small screen for those who can use that medium better.

      • abadstroller

        A Broadway performer needs a big strong voice with great stamina and has to play it slightly over-the-top to be heard and seen from the cheap seats in the nosebleed section of the theatre. I just watched LA’s above referenced video and, while she can sing well enough, it sounds like her voice is breaking when she tries to belt and she seems to be singing primarily from her throat and not supporting the sound from her core and her diaphragm (the muscle beneath her lungs, supporting them–not THAT kind of diaphragm, pervs!). I imagine that she’ll get more vocal training and rehearsal to develop her voice. She may even be able to do the comedy and the drama. But I don’t understand why you wouldn’t select someone who is the whole package in the first place. While I do like LM who seems to have the skill set, Fanny doesn’t have to be played by LM. Surely someone auditioned–perhaps even a “nobody” in professional musical theater–who has stronger pipes, great comic timing, and the dramatic chops to better play Miss Brice? Someone with the promise of the neophyte Bernadette Peters or Kristin Chenoweth (who were spectacular, then and now)?

  • A

    Thank you, casting director, for not shoving more Lea Michele down our throats. She’s one of the reasons I stopped watching Glee…. well, one of the 1.5 million reasons I stopped, but that’s another story.

    • Kris

      Lea has been the star of the show since episode 1, I don’t think it’s “shoving her down your throat” if she’s the pre-established lead. That’s basically the equivalent of saying House shoves Hugh Laurie down your throat.

      • erin

        But Hugh Laurie isn’t a loud shrill

      • Chloé

        Actually, he is.

  • Stacey

    Grant it I don’t know her singing voice. But she is not who I would think of for the role. Lea was made for the role. But Glee was always going to complicate it. Let’s hope it works…

  • nala

    Looking forward to it. Hope she can sing.

    • Julia

      After watching the embedded Youtube clip of Lauren Ambrose singing, I searched for “My man lea michele” to listen to her version. Lea blows Lauren out of the water singing-wise. Hopefully that laughs will make up for the just average singing.

  • O’Brien

    It’s sort of ironic that Lea Michele’s performances of DROMP and My Man are something that is likely going to open this show up to new audiences, and may be what prompted the timing of its opening, but that she’s not the one taking the role. That said, if Ambrose has the pipes, I think she’d be spectacular.

  • Anne

    Inspired choice. Brilliant. Not sure if she can sing it, but can’t wait to see it. Lauren has a gorgeous voice but is it strong enough to handle DROMP? Still, the choice itself is kind of genius and so unexpected.

  • SC

    I don’t know why anyone is surprised Michele isn’t doing it. It would be literally impossible for her to do the revival and “Glee” at the same time unless she cloned herself.

    She’d have been great if she’d had the time, but she never remotely did (and I don’t think it especially helps her to play into the idea that she’s just Barbra 2.0, as well; she’s already got Broadway cred from “Spring Awakening”, which she originated).

    • Poppy

      Exactly what I was thinking. When would she have the time? Sometimes Glee shoots 20 hour days. I think they could’ve waited, LM’s stint on Glee will be over in about a year. Don’t see whats the rush to revive Barbara, I think they also could have used a more notable name. I dont know who Lauren Ambrose is. I’m glad Lea’s not doing it actually, she’s kinda been duped as Barbara number 2, I think she needs to jump out of that shadow while she can. It amazes me how this musical is getting good mileage by using Lea’s name, they knew she wouldn’t be able to do it. Cheap shot.

  • mary poppins

    WoW thanks I like Lauren

  • Jack

    Based on the comments so far, I doubt anyone here has seen a Broadway show. Yes, acting is important, but if Lauren can’t hold her own while singing some of the most iconic songs in American theater, then I’m not so sure how “inspiring” or “brilliant” this casting is.

    That said, I’ll reserve my final judgment for when I see her perform.

    • Bobby’s Robot

      Um…I’ve seen hunderds of Broadway shows since the late ’70’s, but what do I know??

      • Jack

        Nothing, apparently.

    • A

      Actually, I’ve seen hundreds of Broadway, off-Broadway, regional tours and community shows since 1990. I know what I’m talking about. And I still hate Lea Michele, her singing and her over acting. And if you YouTube Lauren Ambrose, you will see she has the singing chops to pull it off.

      • Bobby’s Robot

        Doesn’t matter – nobody knows anything but Jack. His is the definitive word on all things Broadway. I would think the producers have tested her and believe she pull off the demanding score. And she’s not the kind of “Hollywood star!” that producers have recently brought into shows to boost ticket sales. But I’m not Jack, so I don’t know jack.

      • Duck

        I think your lying just to make yourself seem credible. Lol hate? Give credit where credit is due. I’m not a Barabara fan because you know I’m a straight guy, but she’s undoubtely talented same as for Lea. When Barabar says you have a good voice you have a good voice.

  • Maggie

    Wondered where she had been – watched some of your videos – she should do well in the role.

  • orville

    She sang in a couple of episodes of Six Feet Under, didn’t she?

  • j

    she sang in one of the first episodes of Six Feet Under and it was deep and throaty and great. But I hate Lea Michelle so I’m biased.

    • Mr. Marmalade

      I posted the link to that performance on here, but the EW staffers apparently removed the comment/link. If anyone wants to view it, search for “The Rainbow of Her Reasons.” She’s awesome. Personally, I think she’s got a much better voice than Lea and will completely own this role on broadway.

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