Funny Girl, the musical that catapulted Barbra Streisand to superstardom in 1964, has not been revived on Broadway in the 58 years since its original run — until now.
The actress to take on the role of Fanny Brice? None other than Beanie Feldstein, the Booksmart and Lady Bird breakout who in a recent interview with Vogue spoke of how much the role meant to her.
“The expression ‘lifelong dream’—that statement feels very applicable to me,” she said. She even threw a Funny Girl-themed birthday party at three years old, as she recently told a dead-eyed Jimmy Fallon.
Unfortunately for Feldstein, the dream of her playing Fanny Brice in the much-anticipated revival seems to be hers alone. After this weekend’s premiere, the reviews are in, and they are not great. Here are some highlights:
Feldstein’s Fanny seems very young—in one early scene, as her neighbors deride her looks (“If a girl isn’t pretty like a Miss Atlantic City, all she gets from life is pity and a pat”), she sits on the floor like a child—so it feels almost weird to review her, like reviewing your cousin’s performance in her high-school show. But it’s hard to keep rooting for her as the show goes on; what is meant to read as chutzpah plays uncomfortably close to entitlement.
You root for her to raise the roof, but she only bumps against it a little. Her voice, though solid and sweet and clear, is not well suited to the music, and you feel her working as hard as she can to power through the gap. But working hard at what should be naturally extraordinary is not in Fanny’s DNA.
Feldstein’s Fanny is a wide-eyed woman-child, at turns stubborn, awkward and silly. Knowingly precocious, Feldstein relies on broad face-making rather than a more nuanced comic skillset. Yes, though Brice herself could be soulful in song, she was not the subtlest performer either — one of Fanny’s trademark comic characters, after all, was Baby Snooks. But that doesn’t mean this bio-show has to reflect a child’s version of adulthood.
But in song after song, Feldstein’s voice lets her down. Piercing and unpleasant when it gets any higher than her chest, fading and pitchy when it descends even a few steps, it’s simply not a sound you expect to hear on Broadway.
While, for instance, you believed outright that Streisand was a star, with Feldstein, your foremost belief is that she believes she’s a star. It’s a distinction with a difference, in that, with this latest Fanny Brice, that powerhouse illusion at times requires more cooperative effort from the audience.
If you’re saying, “Stop! Stop! She’s already dead!” Feldstein will be fine. She is best friends with Ben Platt, who experienced his own backlash recently after starring in 2021’s screen adaptation of Dear Evan Hansen in confounding de-aging makeup. Maybe they can heal together. At least Jameela Jamil is on her side.