Hello, Gorgeous! Get your first look at Beanie Feldstein as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl
Hey Mister Arnstein, here she is!
EW has your first look at one of Broadway's most anticipated spring shows, the long-awaited revival of Funny Girl starring Beanie Feldstein (Lady Bird, Booksmart) and directed by Michael Mayer (Spring Awakening).
Feldstein, who made her Broadway debut as the adorable Minnie Fay in the Bette Midler-led Hello, Dolly! revival, will star as legendary performer Fanny Brice. Barbra Streisand originated the role on Broadway 58 years ago (and then reprised it on screen), which marked the last time Funny Girl was on the Great White Way.
"Beanie Feldstein, Beanie Feldstein, what a beautiful, beautiful name!" said director Michael Mayer in a statement exclusive to EW. "And what a fabulous Fanny Brice she will be: she's delightfully funny, warm, intelligent, a charming singer and dancer, and truly a 'bagel on a plate full of onion rolls!' I'm beyond excited to collaborate with Beanie as we bring this iconic musical back to Broadway where it belongs."
With music and lyrics by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill, Funny Girl follows Lower East Side gal Fanny Brice as she fights her way to fame in the midst of naysayers and the ups and downs of her tempestuous relationship with producer Nick Arnstein. Originally written by Isobel Lennart, the revival will feature a revised book by Harvey Fierstein.
On Wednesday, the production also announced that Ramin Karimloo (Les Miserables, Anastasia) will join the production as Nick Arnstein and Jane Lynch (Glee) will feature as Mrs. Rosie Brice, Fanny's mother. Jared Grimes (Manifest) is also joining the cast as Eddie Ryan.
Performances for Funny Girl begin March 26, 2022, with opening night officially slated for April 24 at Broadway's August Wilson Theatre. Read more after your first look at Feldstein as Fanny.
EW also has the first official interview with Feldstein, delving into why Fanny is her dream role, how simultaneously excited and intimidated she is to take this on, and just how many times she expects to hear jokes about playing the "titular role."
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: There's been talk of a Funny Girl revival for years, but what made you want to tackle this and play Fanny Brice?
BEANIE FELDSTEIN: Everything, my whole life. I was a unique kid. I was the kid who wanted to watch the film version of Funny Girl more than The Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast. I would literally beg my mom to put it on at night in lieu of all the Disney classics. I was begging for Barbra on the tugboat, so it's been my favorite story for as long as I can remember. It had a profound impact on me even from the time I was very, very little, under 3 years old. And so, when I found out about this, and there was the opportunity to audition, I couldn't believe it. It was in my wildest dreams.
When the casting was announced, you said you first played Fanny at your third birthday. What spoke to you then that still speaks to you now? Is there something from that very young take on her you want to carry with you?
I don't think I understood this as a child, but I think there is an intrinsic connection. My grandparents are from Brooklyn; that is where my grandma and my grandpa grew up. They grew up in that exact world that Fanny grew up in, and it's very much my lineage of these Brooklyn Jews. There was something in Fanny that felt like home. She was so confident and vivacious, both in Barbra Streisand's genius legendary performance and the woman herself. She's an incredibly powerful woman who is on her own mission to prove to the world she knows who she is and what she's got to give. That's inspirational to anyone at any age. Even as a very young kid, I locked into that energy. I'm drawn to that sort of luminous confidence that she has as Fanny Brice. As an adult, it's intoxicating because she has such a true belief in herself that is so exceptional and that I can't wait to delve into once we start rehearsals.
This is such an iconic role. Is there something that intimidates you as you are on the verge of starting rehearsals?
Oh, are you joking? 100 percent. I've been incredibly lucky in my very short working life that every project feels more intimidating or challenging or exciting on a different level than the ones that came before it. To play Fanny Brice on Broadway for the first time since 1964? It's remarkably intimidating, and that's also what makes it unbelievably exciting. Those two should go hand in hand. But the fear and the anxiousness is just as matched in excitement and pure joy.
How does this compare emotionally to making your Broadway debut as Minnie Fay in Hello Dolly?
I had this singular dream as a kid, which was to be on Broadway. This whole journey that I've been on with film and TV has been so surprising and so wonderful, and I love that medium so much. But my heart for my whole life has always been with the theater. That medium has always meant the most to me. So to make my Broadway debut in Hello Dolly, it was like that dream coming true for the first time — and to be among the most exceptional cast and guiding lights anyone could have asked for. But this is a totally different mission that equally feels as surreal and wonderful and something truly out of my wildest dreams. I mean it literally when I say it's like a lifelong dream coming true. It still hasn't sunk in.
Approximately how many "titular role" jokes do you expect to hear between now and next year?
[Laughs] Oh my God, I mean, many. It is so surprising to me because I remember filming that scene. We all were hard on ourselves in our work, and I remember feeling not super confident when I finished that day on Lady Bird. I was like, "I don't know, [director] Greta [Gerwig] says she's got it, but I don't know." I'm just worried in my own head. That ended up being the scene that gets most quoted to me of anything of all time. It's just so funny; you never know what's going to come out of what we do and connect with people.
Ramin Karimloo is going to be playing Nicky, and obviously, he has Broadway bonafides himself. What are you most looking forward to digging into with him?
Oh God, he's just an absolute dreamboat, isn't he? He has the voice of an angel. I'm just so excited to develop the central relationship of the piece, which is Fanny and Nicky and their love story and this push-and-pull of deep love and power. There's so much in their dynamic, and they really surprise one another. He's one of the most exceptionally talented men I've ever seen on stage, and he's so vocally gifted. He's easy to swoon over.
You've been a Broadway fan all your life. Now you'll be working with Michael Mayer on this. Are you a big fan of his work, and what interests you most about partnering with him on this show?
I'm such an absolute gigantic fan of his work. Everything that he's ever done is so distinctly fresh and joyful and singular. He knows Broadway in his bones, and to be guided by that is such an exceptional gift. We've got to spend some time together recently, now that I'm back in New York. I just feel like we're cut from the same cloth; we get each other. I remember seeing Thoroughly Modern Millie for the first time [which Mayer directed]. I was 9 or 10, and I always used to tell Gavin Creel this too when I was working with him on Hello Dolly. I have such a vision of him sitting on that window-sill, up in [Millie's] office and him and Sutton [Foster] dancing together. It just had such an imprint on me as a child. Then Spring Awakening was so foundational to my teenage years. So much of his work has been with me my whole life, and I can't wait to tackle this, especially after his brilliant work across the pond on the West End on the piece. I can't wait to get into it with him.
"Don't Rain on My Parade" has been an iconic song for both Streisand and then Lea Michele on Glee. Have you given much thought yet to how you might make it your own?
That song I would run around my house singing from the age of like 2 years old. I've been singing that song I think longer than I've been talking, so it's weirdly the song that I feel most ready to sing. There's nothing more exciting than that instrumental under that song. It's the most invigorating, exciting piece. I really can't wait to hear it with the orchestra for the first time; that will be a very moving experience. But it's such a gift of a song because it has so much energy in it.
What is your current plot to get your bestie Ben Platt into the production somehow?
No, I want him to be in the audience. We've had the distinct joy of getting to watch each other do everything through the years, and I always feel so safe knowing Ben's in the audience. I am hoping that he'll get to come to opening night.
Why do you think it's taken so long for a Broadway revival of this show to materialize?
I couldn't say. I actually was laughing because Hello Dolly also came out in 1964. I've always joked that if I could travel back in time, I would go to Broadway in 1964 and see all my favorite shows and their original productions. Fiddler on the Roof premiered that year; it was a great year for Broadway. I really couldn't say. I just don't know. Barbra is my absolute idol, and she's a true queen. Her performance lives in everyone's memories and in the film, and it's just such an extraordinary, legendary performance. But I think Funny Girl as a piece, and especially the stage version of it, people don't know as well as they know the film. I'm truly so honored to be the person that will reintroduce the stage version back to New York after all these years.
Anyone who's watched his work knows that this show is very close to Ryan Murphy's heart. Have you talked to him at all about it, even though I know he's not involved with this production?
He's just so incredibly supportive. I feel like he's championed me in such a specific and very meaningful way. He's been so empowering to me over the last few years that we've been working together, and he was very like over-the-moon excited for me. He's such an incredible supporter, and I feel very lucky to have him in my corner.
This show is part of Broadway's return after the COVID-19 shutdown, the longest time stages have ever been dark there. What is the significance of that? Are you hoping you'll be part of a push to bring audiences back?
Absolutely. It's so unbelievably emotional to have had Broadway not able to be open and full of art, energy, and togetherness for the past 19 months. I am so excited as an audience member to be returning to go see everything in the fall, and the fact that Funny Girl is a part of this first season back after this horrific time is so emotional. Being at the Tonys the other night and being backstage, I cried like three or four times just feeling the energy of being backstage again and being surrounded by all these people that I truly admire and look up to. The theater community is such a once-in-a-lifetime community to be a part of; it's full of the warmest, most hardworking people. I'm just so thankful and thrilled that we can — as long as everyone gets vaccinated — all go back to Broadway safely. I'm grateful for the science. I'm grateful for people respecting the ushers and wearing their masks and all of the good things so that we can all see theater together again.
This sounds like your number one dream role, but do you have others?
I do. I have three others. I would love to do the Baker's Wife in Into the Woods. And then the other two I have to wait an even longer time for because I would love to try my hand at Mama Rose in Gypsy one day. And I also would maybe love to play Dolly Levi one day, after watching Bette [Midler] for so long and Donna [Murphy]. I couldn't help but think, "What if one day I got to do Dolly and meet the next Minnie?" I mean the Minnie wouldn't even be born yet! But that's exciting to think that maybe 40 years from now or something, I could bring Dolly back and do it again.