Life’s candy and the sun’s a ball of butter for Glee actress Lea Michele.
After years of playing an obsessive theater kid who dreams of landing the role of Fanny Brice in Funny Girl, Michele is taking over the part in real life.
The show announced Monday that the Emmy Award-nominated Michele would replace Beanie Feldstein in the titular role starting in September. Tony Award-nominated Tovah Feldshuh will step in as Mrs. Brice, currently played by Jane Lynch, another Glee alum.
The announcement came less than a day after Feldstein took to Instagram to tell her followers that “once the production decided to take the show in a different direction” she would step away two months earlier than anticipated on July 31st. The production’s current understudy, Julie Benko, will play Fanny until Michele comes on.
When Feldstein was cast, many praised the producers’ decision to put a plus-size actress in a lead role for a Broadway revival. A co-star in fan favorites among Gen Z — such as Lady Bird and Booksmart — Feldstein also drew a younger audience that producers may have potentially seen as a way to bring in a more diverse crowd to Broadway, a longstanding issue. Feldstein, like Fanny Brice, is Jewish.
But when it came to the vocal chops and depth needed for songs like “My Man” and “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” some critics noted Feldstein didn’t have the range.
Lea Michele has for years been proving the richness of her upper register – perhaps a little too pointedly — for the Fanny Brice role, like the six times she performed a Funny Girl song in character on Glee or when she charged down the center aisle more than ten years ago at the 64th annual Tony Awards singing “Don’t Rain on My Parade.” Every high G sounded like it was leaping from the depths of her bowels trying to cling onto a Tony Award behind the stage — an honor she’s yet to be nominated for despite a long career on Broadway.
“A dream come true is an understatement,” Michele wrote on Instagram Monday. “I’m so incredibly honored to join this amazing cast and production.”
Some TikTokers and Youtubers have come to the defense of Feldstein saying that because Barbra Streisand defined the role in 1964 that catapulted her to success, audiences can’t picture or hear a Fanny Brice that doesn’t have the velvety, diva belt and warmth of Streisand. Some argue Feldstein brought a scrappy humor to the role with her softer, high-pitched voice.
Michele’s voice has never been in question, but her personality has been the subject of much criticism from her colleagues. When Michele tweeted a supportive statement for the Black Lives Matter movement after the 2020 murder of George Floyd, some of her Glee castmates were quick to accuse her of hypocrisy.
Season six star, Samantha Marie Ware said Michele’s “traumatic microaggressions,” were a regular feature of their collaboration. Ware, who is Black, recalled one incident when Michele threatened to “sh*t in her wig.” The Bronx-born Michele issued an apology online.
In a vague response to Michele’s casting, Ware tweeted Monday that “Broadway upholds whiteness.”