For once the vapid, disappointing world of Broadway has thrown me a genuine curve ball. Lauren Ambrose, of “Six Feet Under,” will play Fanny Brice in the upcoming revival if “Funny Girl” directed by Bartlett Sher. This comes as a genuine shock, as I was sure it was going to be Lea Michelle and I don’t think Ms. Abrose was on anyone’s list as a contender for the part. In recent years, Ms. Ambrose has proven herself a gifted, young theater actress in plays such as “Exit the King” and “Romeo & Juliet” for which she received rave reviews.
“It was a wonderful surprise. She wasn’t honestly a front-runner for the part until she called me, asked to audition and came in and blew us all away.” said Bartlett Sher, ”Lauren was the only person I saw with the deepest acting skills, the capacity to sing everything in this role and an emotional richness that really worked for Fanny at all ages.” Mr. Sher added that Fanny Brice is “the toughest role I’ve ever had to cast,” and apparently saw a number of Broadway actresses including Laura Benanti (from the 2008 “Gypsy”), Kelli O’Hara (“South Pacific”), Stephanie J. Block (“9 to 5”), Leslie Kritzer (“A Catered Affair”), and Lea Michele (“Spring Awakening,” the Fox series “Glee”).
“I was drawn to reviving the musical for other reasons, chiefly the story of women who work in the theater and the arts and want love and success and happiness but have to choose among them,” said Mr. Sher, who despite having a checkered track-record at the Metropolitan Opera, directed one of the most revelatory productions of “South Pacific” in Broadway history. Mr. Sher added, “It’s very important that no one think I was trying to cast someone to replace Barbra Streisand. Anyone who thinks they’re coming to see the next Barbra Streisand should not come see ‘Funny Girl.’”