Who Else Should Star in 'Funny Girl'?

by Christopher Ehlers

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Saturday August 6, 2022
Originally published on July 18, 2022

Who Else Should Star in 'Funny Girl'?
  (Source:Associated Press)

Last week, when the Beanie Feldstein/Lea Michele "Funny Girl" drama came to a head, it seemed as though people from all corners of the internet were glued to their screens with a big bucket of popcorn. After all, it isn't every day that Broadway news receives that kind of attention.

Putting aside Michele's alleged bad behavior on the set of "Glee," there is a reason that rumors about her starring in a revival of "Funny Girl" have been circulating in the 13 years since "Glee" premiered: She's right for the role. The other thing we already know? That Feldstein is not right for the role.

When the scathing reviews of "Funny Girl" hit three months ago, Feldstein apologists insisted that naysayers were nothing more than Barbra Streisand loyalists who would have hated anyone in the role that wasn't Streisand. But that's not exactly true. What is true, however, is that "Funny Girl" is not a show that can stand on its own if the actress at its center isn't a sensation; the show simply isn't strong enough to withstand a shaky central performance. Fanny Brice — in the context of the musical, anyway — has got to have a voice you could listen to all day, "SNL"-level comedic chops, vulnerability that shatters your heart, and a certain level of fabulous sophistication. Streisand was all of those things at the same time, and they're qualities that ought to be present in any actress hoping to step into Streisand's roller skates. Clearly, it's not an easy task, and there's a reason that it's never been revived before.

So who would make a good Fanny Brice? Here's our wishlist.

Lady Gaga




A few years ago, there were rumors that Gaga and Rosie O'Donnell were set to star in the first ever Broadway revival of "Funny Girl." Needless to say, that didn't come to pass. But if there's any legend working today that has what it takes to do this role justice, it's Gaga, whose many talents make her perfect for the role.

Shoshana Bean




Years before people were clamoring about Lea Michele in the role, Shoshana Bean was the name most frequently mentioned in any discussion about people who might be able to successfully take a crack at the notoriously difficult role. Bean did finally star in the show back in 2016 at North Shore Music Theatre in Massachusetts — and won an Elliot Norton Award in the process — but no plans for a reprisal ever came to fruition. She was great in the role, and, with a little more time, she'd have been sensational.

Annaleigh Ashford




Few theater actresses working today have the versatility of Annaleigh Ashford, and all her many talents would make her an ideal choice to take a stab at Fanny Brice. Her irreverent comedy skills won her a Tony for "You Can't Take It With You" and she showed her devastating vulnerability in "Sunday in the Park with George." And in "Wicked" and "Kinky Boots," she proved that she can carry a musical.

Jessie Mueller




Aside from the fact that in certain photos, Mueller has a slight resemblance to a younger Streisand, it's her one-of-a-kind talents that make her a great candidate for this role. She hasn't quite proven her comedy chops yet, but as anyone who saw her in "Beautiful," "Waitress," or "Carousel" will tell you, there's very little she doesn't do well.

Ariana DeBose




No, Ariana DeBose is not a white Jewish girl from Brooklyn. But it doesn't matter. We are of the belief that there's nothing this Oscar winner can't do, and that includes reimagining this iconic role in a way that feels vibrant and fresh. If not, we'll settle for a revival of "Sweet Charity."

Evan Rachel Wood




People's minds were blown when she recently appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and sang up a storm, but Wood has never kept the fact that she has an amazing voice a secret. She's got exactly the kind of celebrity and vulnerability needed to make Fanny work, and we'd be thrilled to see her take it on.

Anne Hathaway




Have we all gotten over Hathaway fatigue? Is it cool to like her again? Gosh, we hope so. Anne Hathaway is an actress who can truly do it all, as she has shown time and time again in films like "Les Misérables," "Rachel Getting Married," "The Devil Wears Prada," and "Brokeback Mountain." She's also a true theater geek who would no doubt infuse the role with the deepest of reverence.

Ashlee Simpson




While most remember Simpson for her "SNL" performance gone wrong, she has proven herself to be an electric performer who is, in many ways, better at everything than her more famous sister. And to anyone doubting her stage chops, Simpson was sensational as Roxie Hart in "Chicago," proving that she can act, sing, dance, and dazzle without even breaking a sweat.

Anika Noni Rose




A Tony winner for "Caroline, or Change," Anika Noni Rose is one of those performers who is effortlessly good in anything she does, and she's an underrated force who is long overdue for a leading role on Broadway. At 49, she's definitely too old for the role, but she doesn't look it and that's what counts.

Adele




This is a wish list, after all. But aside from Gaga, there is no breathing human on planet earth whose gifts are better suited for "Funny Girl" than Adele, who — down to the nails — might be the best thing this side of Barbra Streisand.