Lea Michele is officially the biggest star. “Funny Girl,” the once-faltering musical revival, is selling strong and breaking the all-time box office record at Broadway’s August Wilson Theater.
The revival collected $2.005 million over eight performances in the week ending December 18, setting a benchmark for the highest gross at the August Wilson Theater and for the production. Prior to “Funny Girl,” the stage version of “Mean Girls” held the house record with $1.994 million in 2018.
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The box-office success of “Funny Girl” is also noteworthy because it’s been a tough time for Broadway as tourism remains low from pre-pandemic levels. Several musicals and plays, including “Almost Famous,” “KPOP,” and “A Strange Loop,” have been closed at an alarming rate due to low ticket sales.
“Funny Girl” almost suffered the same fate when the show launched in April with Beanie Feldstein in the lead role of Fanny Brice. But she and Jane Lynch, who was replaced by Tovah Feldshuh as Fanny’s mother, left the production in August after the production was plagued by poor reviews and lackluster attendance.
Since Michele’s casting in September, the blockbusters for ‘Funny Girl’ have been on the rise. The August Wilson Theater is packed every night at nearly 98% to 99% capacity. It’s a huge improvement from the summer when the venue was about 74% full. That was financially problematic, because an expensive show like “Funny Girl” has to have a full house to make a profit every week.
“Funny Girl” follows Brice on her improbable rise to fame and her tempestuous relationship with gambler Nicky Arnstein. Along with Michele and Feldshuh, the current cast includes Ramin Karimloo as Nick Arnstein and Jared Grimes as Eddie Ryan. Julie Benko plays the role of Fanny Brice every Thursday in a unique arrangement.
The musical debuted on Broadway in 1964, starring Barbra Streisand as Brice, and received several Tony nominations. The revival marks the first time in 58 years that “Funny Girl” returns to the Great White Way.
Michele certainly had tough shoes to fill, but critics have favorably compared her performance to Streisand’s. In Variety review wrote Frank Rizzo: “What serves the show most is her singing, making a triumph of the first-act musical trifecta of ‘I’m the Greatest Star’, ‘People’ and ‘Don’t Rain on My Parade.” He continued, “Michele is able to move away from Streisand’s formulations enough to take ownership—or at least become a savvy caretaker—of the material.”
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