How Lea Michele has been auditioning for Funny Girl for more than a decade

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·3 min read
How Lea Michele has been auditioning for Funny Girl for more than a decade
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This parade's been a long time coming.

Over the weekend, actress Beanie Feldstein unexpectedly announced that she would be leaving the Broadway production of Funny Girl at the end of the month, citing the show being taken in a "different direction." Turns out, it was being taken in a New Direction, with Glee star Lea Michele stepping in as the new Fanny Brice.

Rumors swirled for a while that Michele was the frontrunner to take on the iconic role, which Barbra Streisand originated in 1964. In fact, when Feldstein's casting was first announced last August, "Lea Michele" started trending on Twitter thanks to the actress' close connection with the role in many fans' minds. That's because Michele, a vocal Streisand and Funny Girl fan, has been performing songs from the musical in Glee and other projects for over a decade. For many younger audiences, Michele was likely their first exposure to the music from the show.

Lea Michele, Barbra Streisand
Lea Michele, Barbra Streisand

FOX Image Collection via Getty Images; Todd Williamson/Getty Images Lea Michele and the original Fanny Brice, Barbra Streisand

Back in 2009, during the first season of Glee, Michele sang a show-stopping version of the Funny Girl hit, "Don't Rain on My Parade," a favorite song among musical theater fans, including her character, Rachel Berry. Rachel was a huge Streisand fan in the show and her personality was strikingly similar to that of Fanny, perhaps serving as a long-running nod to the character. When the New Directions competed in sectionals, the glee clubber naturally relied on her go-to song.

As Glee continued to explode into a bonafide phenomenon, the cast was sent on a global live tour in 2010. During the concerts, Michele continued to sing "Don't Rain on My Parade" nightly and her live performance was later brought to the big screen in the Glee concert film, Glee: The 3D Concert Movie. That same year, Michele was invited to perform at the Tony Awards. Naturally, Michele chose to perform "Don't Rain on My Parade," in front of the likes of Beyonce, Jay-Z, and Will Smith.

Throughout Glee's six-season run, Michele ended up performing all of Streisand's biggest numbers from Funny Girl, including "Who Are You Now", "My Man", "People", and more. But the most art-imitating-life prophecy came in 2014, during the show's fifth season when Michele was actually cast as Fanny Brice on Broadway, at least her character was.

As the series progressed, many of the original characters graduated and the plot began following their lives after high school, including Rachel being Broadway bound. In the episode "Opening Night", Rachel achieves her dream of landing the starring role in Funny Girl. At the time, it felt like a fitting homage to the character of Rachel Berry finally achieving everything Fanny Brice had after years of hard work, but now it feels more like a premonition of what was to come for Michele.

Her time on Glee isn't Michele's only connection to the current Broadway revival. The actress has a good working relationship with Funny Girl's director, Michael Mayer. In 2006, Mayer directed Michele in the groundbreaking hit musical, Spring Awakening, which launched her career.

Now, after more than a decade singing Funny Girl tracks, Michele will finally have her chance to live the dream on Broadway when she officially takes over the role of Fanny Brice on Sept. 6.