She first assumed the persona of comedian Fanny Brice at her third birthday party, wearing a leopard-print outfit made by her mother. Now Booksmart star Beanie Feldstein is reprising the role for a much larger audience in the revival of Funny Girl—back on Broadway for the first time in 58 years, with a revised book by Harvey Fierstein and directed by Michael Mayer. Channeling the iconic figure—“on Broadway and not in my family’s backyard,” Feldstein has said—has been a lifelong dream come true.
Jane Lynch, who portrays Brice’s strong-willed mother, Rosie, in the run (which opens April 24), is another childhood Funny Girl aficionado. The original cast recording is the first music she remembers listening to as a kid. Back then, she recalls, “I played every character. I actually knew every breath of the album.”
Fierstein also has a long history with the show, having seen the mid-’60s Broadway production, back when tickets were a mere $2.50. Revamping the original script, which some critics found uneven, was a tricky undertaking, he admits, but adds, “I love that kind of challenge because you’re not writing a show from the beginning. You’re trying to find out what went wrong and help it along. When I read it through, I said, ‘Oh, this has a lot of Band-Aids on it.’ My job was to take off the Band-Aids, to look at the structure, and try to make it all work without putting my stamp on it.” He adds puckishly: “I mean, my ego wants you to notice everything. But on the other hand, I don’t want you to notice anything. I want you to think, ‘Oh, Harvey just took a check and did nothing.’ ” One of the biggest changes Fierstein made was to include a new monologue, which shows off Brice’s comedic chops. But equally important was what he didn’t alter: namely, the feel of a Golden Age Broadway musical. In this time of endless reboots and reimaginings, he wanted to stay true to the show he saw so many decades ago, only with a new star at the helm.
When Lynch plays opposite Feldstein, she says, “I’m not thinking about Barbra Streisand at all. I’m locking eyes with Beanie Feldstein as Fanny Brice, who is so confident—a force of nature, really—just an undeterred young lady who is not going to let anybody stop her.”
This article appears in the May 2022 issue of ELLE.
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