Lea Michele, 36, had the audience’s full attention on the night of Sept. 6, when she made her long-awaited debut as Fanny Brice in the Broadway version of Funny Girl, and received four standing ovations, according to Deadline. Late in the evening, a tweet by TV host Frank DiLella claimed she had received no fewer than seven. The actress didn’t hold back as she sang her heart out in the main role, which was first made famous by the iconic Barbra Streisand in the 1964 original Broadway debut, and it brought on deja vu for fans who thought back on her Glee character Rachel Berry fictitiously taking on the same role in the hit Fox television show. Despite a rough few years full of not-so-great headlines about herself, Lea made quite a lasting impression when she stepped out on the stage of the August Wilson Theater in New York City to take on the role of a lifetime, and it didn’t take long for fans and critics alike to take to social media to share their thoughts.
lea michele, you made it. 🤍pic.twitter.com/Tt7LiBhfQR
— bia ⁵ミ☆ • LEA OPENING NIGHT (@groffsarfatis) September 7, 2022
“lea michele, you made it,” one fan wrote in the caption for a Twitter video of her bowing on stage at the end of the show, which had audience members that included Lea’s BFF and former Broadway co-star Jonathan Groff and Glee creator Ryan Murphy. Another tweet showed a text message exchange between a person who was apparently at the theater and another who wasn’t. “Intermission. Three standing ovations so far. All worthy. Lea Michele is KILLING it, and the audience is with her all the way. Not sure when I’ve ever been in a theatre this electric,” the message read.
— Variety (@Variety) September 7, 2022
Additional tweets called Lea’s performance “phenomenal” and “unforgettable” while another fan said she was a “true star.” There was also a moment in the show when the audience reportedly gasped and laughed after Lea said the line, “I haven’t read many books.” The line most likely had them thinking about the recent headline-making conspiracy theories that claimed the talented singer and actress couldn’t read, which she quickly debunked.
— Variety (@Variety) September 7, 2022
Lea’s debut as Fanny in Funny Girl and the supportive reviews come almost two months after the news that she’d be replacing Beanie Feldstein in the main role made headlines. Tovah Feldshuh was also announced as the replacement for Lea’s former Glee co-star Jane Lynch, who played the role of Rosie Brice in the play, at the time. Lea took to social media shortly after the announcement to express her excitement about playing her “dream” role.
There’s no other way to describe Lea Michele’s performance in Funny Girl other than unbelievable pic.twitter.com/qNmTowwhEC
— Logan Leavitt (@LoganLeavitt) September 7, 2022
“A dream come true,” she wrote in the caption of a photo that showed her standing in front of the show’s marquee at the August Wilson Theatre. In the middle of Aug., the show’s official social media page shared the first footage of Lea’s rehearsals for the play and it got a lot of fans excited about what was to come. Some critics, however, questioned her getting the role after she was accused of mistreating former coworkers on various shows in posts on social media.
Lea Michele can read…all of Twitter for FILTH AS SHE DOMINATES IN FUNNY GIRL ON BROADWAY TONIGHT. pic.twitter.com/KwiLc9QwZd
— Kimberly Abrams (@kimanneabrams) September 7, 2022
Lea, who was pregnant with her first child at the time of the allegations, responded in a lengthy apology post of her own that admitted she had been working on herself to do better. “What matters is that I clearly acted in ways which hurt other people,” some of her post read. “Whether it was my privileged position and perspective that caused me to be perceived as insensitive or inappropriate at times, or whether it was just my immaturity and me being unnecessarily difficult, I apologize for my behavior and for any pain which I have caused.”
She went on to say she had been “reflecting on [her] own shortcomings” over the last several months, and explained that she wanted to “take responsibility for [her] actions” as she prepared to welcome her baby. “I listened to these criticisms and I am learning, and while I am very sorry, I will be better in the future from this experience,” she concluded.
As she continues to look ahead and take on her new role of a lifetime, it seems all eyes have been on Lea, but she’s not letting it let her forget the talented women who played Fanny before her. “For the Fannys who have fearlessly graced this stage before me, @beaniefeldstein @jujujuliebee @ephieaardema you all have climbed the mountain that is Fanny and I am honored to be in your company,” she wrote on her Instagram story just before her debut. “And of course @BarbraStreisand our queen.”