Lea Michele is wowing critics as Fanny Brice in Broadway’s Funny Girl. The Glee alum, 36, debuted as Fanny on Sept. 6, where she got not one, but seven standing ovations. Sadly, she was then knocked out of the show due to a bout of COVID-19. She returned stronger than ever, and the reviews are showing that. In fact, after the show struggled with poor reviews following its premiere in April with Beanie Feldstein as the lead, The Washington Post has dubbed Lea the “gleeful diva” the show “needed”.
“When Lea Michele launches missile-like into ‘Don’t Rain on My Parade,’ she doesn’t just bring down the house. She brings down the whole darn block,” theater critic Peter Marks wrote for the publication. Later on, he doubled down on Lea’s smooth ability to bring the show’s biggest songs to life. “It’s the performance in this 1964 backstage musical that an imbiber of golden-era Broadway wants — no, needs — to drink in. An irresistible cocktail mixed with fizz, rocket fuel and pure talent,” he gushed. Lea is certainly smiling right now.
Furthermore, Jesse Green of The New York Times called Leah “a stupendous Fanny to thrill and distract”. He added, “Both vulnerable and invulnerable, kooky and ardent, she makes the show worth watching again.”
Both critics recalled the difficulties Funny Girl has endured finding the right cast, and more importantly, the right lead, with Jesse calling the process “a tortuous path”. Although Jesse noted that the show spent decades growing its “long list of misfires” for Fanny, the most recent one, as mentioned above, is Beanie Feldstein. She announced her departure from the show in July, two months premature of her original end date. “Playing Fanny Brice on Broadway has been a lifelong dream of mine, and doing so for the last few months has been a great joy and true honor,” she wrote on Instagram at the time. “Once the production decided to take the show in a different direction, I made the extremely difficult decision to step away sooner than anticipated.”
Negotiations with Lea’s team began at some point over the summer with the given timeline; however, Glee and Leah Michele fans know this has been a longtime dream of Leah and her Glee character, Rachel Berry. Lea first sang “Parade” from Funny Girl on Glee in 2009 and was then invited to sing the song at the Tony Awards in 2010. In Glee‘s fifth season, writers helped Rachel’s dream come true when she moved to New York City to fight for the role of Fanny, which she ends up landing. That same year, Lea said Glee creator Ryan Murphy obtained rights to the show and that they were in talks to make it happen. “We’ve had some really exciting first meetings with a really fabulous director that we think would be really wonderful,” she revealed on Watch What Happens Live (via Playbill). Sadly, the plans fell through and a revival was eventually started with Beanie as the lead.
Fanny is home ❤️ @thedrewbarrymoreshow
Luckily for Lea, life imitated art eventually and she landed the lead. “If I could have fallen to my knees on the side of the street I would have,” Lea told Drew Barrymore on her talk show, recalling the moment she was told she would portray Fanny on Broadway. “For me, it just feels this timing was right for me.”