amBroadway | ‘Funny Girl’ to close end of summer when Lea Michele exits

Lea Michele (Fanny Brice) and Ramin Kari mloo (Nick Arnstein) in "Funny Girl."
Lea Michele (Fanny Brice) and Ramin Kari mloo (Nick Arnstein) in “Funny Girl.”
Photo: Matthew Murphy

Lea Michele will continue to headline the Broadway revival of “Funny Girl” through Sept. 3, at which point the show will close rather than try to recast the role of Fanny Brice. (Michele’s co-stars Ramin Karimloo, Jared Grimes and Tovah Feldshuh will also stick with the show through the end of the summer.)

“Funny Girl” has endured a rollercoaster-like Broadway journey. Beanie Feldstein, who was originally cast as Fanny Brice and led the show when it opened a year ago, lacked the vocal chops and charisma to handle one of the most demanding roles in the musical theater canon.

Without a solid leading performance, there is no “Funny Girl.” The musical (which originally starred Barbra Streisand and had never been revived on Broadway before), is little more than a star vehicle, as demonstrated by its mopey old-fashioned soap opera plotting and all the second-rate songs that got cut from the film adaptation. The fact that the revival has skimpy production values makes it even more critical to have an extraordinary lead performance.

Michele (who utilized her time on the TV show “Glee” as an all-out, never-ending audition for “Funny Girl,” including the season where her character even starred in a fictional Broadway revival of “Funny Girl”) is vastly better as Fanny than Feldstein. Her performances of “I’m the Greatest Star” and “Don’t Rain On My Parade” are exhilarating. (I highly the show’s recently released cast album with Michele, which also features a larger orchestra than you will hear at the theater.)

In spite of concerns over Michele’s allegedly toxic behavior on the set of “Glee” (which led to a social media backlash against her), Michele managed to rescue “Funny Girl” (which otherwise probably would have closed at the end of last summer) and turn it into a genuine smash hit.

Another person who deserves a great deal of credit is Julie Benko, the standby for Fanny Brice, who plays the role every Thursday and played it full time between Feldstein’s exit and Michele’s entrance. Assuming that Michele is not going to lead the show’s national tour, which launches in the fall, Benko would be the obvious candidate for the job.

‘Three Sisters’ with Gerwig and Isaac is indefinitely postponed

Back in 2019, New York Theatre Workshop announced plans for an Off-Broadway production of Chekhov’s “Three Sisters” starring Greta Gerwig and Oscar Isaac (who is currently leading “The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window” at BAM). After the pandemic hit, the production was pushed back to 2023. On Tuesday, the theater announced that “Three Sisters” has now been “indefinitely postponed.” “In the intervening three years, we’ve worked to reunite the original company for a summer 2023 production. Unfortunately, new scheduling conflicts have arisen for the production’s in-demand artists, which proved to be insurmountable in bringing the production to life during the 2022/23 season,” the theater wrote in a statement.

Will Davis named artistic director of Rattlestick

Will Davis, a transgender multi-disciplinary artist, has been named the new artistic director of Off-Broadway’s Rattlestick Theater in the West Village, succeeding Daniella Topol. Davis previously served as the artistic director of the American Theatre Company in Chicago from 2016-2018, becoming the first transgender person to lead a major nonprofit institution without a centrally-defined LGBTQ mission. One of Rattlestick’s best-known plays in recent years was “Buyer and Cellar,” a comic monologue by Jonathan Tolins which imagined an actor being hired to work in an imaginary antique doll shop set up in the basement of Barbra Streisand’s Malibu mansion.