Everything you need to know about 'Funny Girl' starring Lea Michele on Broadway

Get ready to hear the music that makes you dance by learning all about the classic show.

Gillian Russo
Gillian Russo

Life's candy and the sun's a ball of butter! Nearly 60 years after premiering to acclaim on Broadway, the classic musical Funny Girl is getting its very first Broadway revival in 2022. This turbulent love story is based on the real-life relationship between Ziegfeld Follies comedienne Fanny Brice and gambler Nicky Arnstein. The show traces the rise and fall of Fanny's career together with that of her and Arnstein's relationship, which ends up being more difficult than either would have bet on. The musical — and especially its signature song, "Don't Rain on My Parade" — have become almost synonymous with its original star, Barba Streisand, but stage and screen star Lea Michele is now taking on Fanny's mantle.

We've created a guide to all things Funny Girl, including fun facts about the original Broadway production and movie adaptation, the star-studded original and current casts, and basic details about the theatre and running time to know before you go. So when someone asks "Who taught her (or him, or them) everything?" about Funny Girl, you can say you learned all about the show right here.

What is Funny Girl about?

Funny Girl is based on the true life story of Fanny Brice, a showgirl in Florenz Ziegfeld's Ziegfeld Follies revue. The story takes place long after the peak of her fame, when Fanny is awaiting the arrival of her husband, Nicky Arnstein, from prison. Through a series of flashbacks, Fanny recounts her life up to that point, beginning with how she had big dreams of being a star as a teenager, but her mother discouraged her from show business because she wasn't conventionally attractive. Eventually, though, she gets a job in vaudeville and eventually in the Follies, becoming an audience hit when she turns a classical, romantic number into a comedy routine.

She meets Arnstein at the afterparty following her debut Follies show, and the two quickly fall in love and marry. However, Arnstein's shady past as a gambler looms large. Though Fanny determines not to let it affect their love, their relationship gets strained when she gets involved in his vices.

When did Funny Girl premiere?

Funny Girl premiered on Broadway on March 26, 1964 at the Winter Garden Theatre. The musical hopped to the Majestic Theatre and later the Broadway Theatre during its 1,348-performance run, and the show closed on July 1, 1967 after three successful years. Garson Kanin directed the premiere, and Carol Haney choreographed under the supervision of Oscar-winning director/choreographer Jerome Robbins. Here's a timeline of some of the biggest Funny Girl productions:

  • 1964: Funny Girl premieres on Broadway
  • 1965: Funny Girl goes on its first national tour
  • 1966: West End premiere opens in London
  • 2015: West End revival opens
  • 2022: Broadway revival opens

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Who wrote Funny Girl?

The original Funny Girl musical features music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Bob Merrill. The original book is by Isobel Lennart, but the 2022 Broadway production features a revised book by Tony-winning actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein. (Fierstein's book was first seen in London in 2016, when the musical was revived in the West End.

Is there a Funny Girl movie?

Yes — in 1968, after the Broadway production was met with success, Funny Girl was adapted into a movie. Barbra Streisand reprised her starring role as Fanny Brice, and Omar Sharif played Nicky Arnstein. Kay Medford, who played Mrs. Rose Brice on Broadway, also reprised her role for the film.

The Funny Girl movie was the highest-grossing film of 1968 in America and received eight Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and a nomination for Medford. Streisand won Best Actress for her performance as Fanny Brice.

A sequel, Funny Lady, was released in 1975 and stars Streisand again as an older Fanny married to impresario Billy Rose. However, the sequel did not achieve the critical or box office success of Funny Girl.

What theatre in New York is Funny Girl playing at?

Funny Girl is at the August Wilson Theatre. The theatre is located at 245 W 52nd St. between Eighth Avenue and Broadway, right across the street from the Neil Simon Theatre and just around the corner from the Broadway Theatre.

What is the running time of Funny Girl?

Funny Girl is 2 hours and 35 minutes long, including one intermission. This is a typical running time for a Broadway show, though Broadway shows can be as short as an hour and as long as three and a half! Intermissions usually last 15 or 20 minutes.

What days is Funny Girl playing?

Funny Girl plays eight performances a week at the August Wilson Theatre. For the complete performance schedule and show times, please visit the Funny Girl page to learn more. 

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Who is in the cast of Funny Girl?

The 2022 revival cast of Funny Girl has multiple stars of stage and screen. Here are the principal cast members for Funny Girl:

  • Lea Michele as Fanny Brice
  • Ramin Karimloo as Nicky Arnstein
  • Tovah Feldshuh as Mrs. Rosie Brice, Fanny's mother
  • Jared Grimes as Eddie Ryan
  • Peter Francis James as Florenz Ziegfeld
  • Ephie Aardema as Emma/Mrs. Nadler
  • Debra Cardona as Mrs. Meeker
  • Toni DiBuono as Mrs. Strakosh
  • Martin Moran as Tom Keeney
  • Julie Benko as Fanny Brice Alternate

What celebrities have performed in Funny Girl?

Funny Girl is perhaps most famous for launching the career of Barbra Streisand to new heights. Already the best-selling female singer in the country when she was cast in 1964, Streisand became a household name after starring in Funny Girl on Broadway, in the West End, and in the 1968 film adaptation (winning an Academy Award for Best Actress). "People" and "Don't Rain on My Parade" became two of her signature songs, and although she lost the Best Actress Tony to Carol Channing in 1964, Streisand would go on to become one of few artists to achieve EGOT distinction: winning Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Awards.

Sydney Chaplin, son of Charlie Chaplin, starred opposite Streisand as Nicky Arnstein in Funny Girl on Broadway. Omar Sharif held the role in the Funny Girl movie adaptation.

The 2022 cast includes multiple celebrities: Beanie Feldstein is famous for her roles in movies and TV shows like Lady Bird, Booksmart, and American Crime Story: Impeachment. Jane Lynch is best known for playing the cruel cheer coach Sue Sylvester on Glee — a role that earned her Golden Globe and Emmy Awards — and Ramin Karimloo is a Tony-nominated stage veteran best known for playing multiple roles each in Les Misérables and The Phantom of the Opera between Broadway and London's West End.

Who are the characters in Funny Girl?

Funny Girl centers around the showbiz world and is based on the story of the real-life performer Fanny Brice. Many of the characters are based on the real people in her family, the Ziegfeld Follies, and her love life. Here are some of the major characters in the Funny Girl musical:

  • Fanny Brice: A comedic, energetic Ziegfeld Follies performer who falls in love with Nicky Arnstein.
  • Nicky Arnstein: A gambler with a shady past, who falls in love with Fanny.
  • Mrs. Rosie Brice: Fanny's mother, who initially tells her she won't make it in show business.
  • Eddie Ryan: A dancer Fanny meets while working in vaudeville.
  • Florenz Ziegfeld Jr.: The creator and impresario behind the Ziegfeld Follies theatrical revues.

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What are the songs in Funny Girl?

The Funny Girl music was composed by Jule Styne and features lyrics from Bob Merrill, with "Don't Rain On My Parade" being the most famous. The album linked at the end of this section is the original Broadway cast recording, but the tracklist below includes songs added in subsequent productions, including "Funny Girl" and an additional reprise of "Don't Rain On My Parade."

Act I

  • "Overture" - Orchestra
  • "If a Girl Isn't Pretty" - Mrs. Brice, Mrs. Meeker, Mrs. Strakosh, Mr. Keeney, Eddie Ryan and Keeney Company
  • "I'm the Greatest Star" - Fanny Brice
  • "Cornet Man" - Fanny Brice and Keeney Company
  • "His Love Makes Me Beautiful" - Ziegfeld Tenor, Fanny Brice and Ziegfeld Company
  • "I Want to Be Seen With You Tonight" - Nicky Arnstein and Fanny Brice
  • "Henry Street" - Mrs. Meeker, Mrs. Brice, Mrs Strakosh and Henry Street Neighbors
  • "People" - Fanny Brice
  • "You Are Woman" - Nicky Arnstein and Fanny Brice
  • "Don't Rain on My Parade" - Fanny Brice

Act II

  • "Entr'acte" - Orchestra
  • "Don't Rain on My Parade" (Reprise I) - Fanny Brice
  • "Sadie, Sadie" - Fanny Brice and Friends
  • "Who Taught Her Everything?" - Eddie Ryan and Mrs. Brice
  • "Temporary Arrangement" - Nicky Arnstein and Businessmen
  • "Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat" - Fanny Brice and Ziegfeld Company
  • "Who Are You Now?" - Fanny Brice and Nicky Arnstein
  • "The Music That Makes Me Dance" - Fanny Brice
  • "Funny Girl" - Fanny Brice
  • "Don't Rain on My Parade" (Reprise II) - Fanny Brice
  • "People" (Reprise) - Full Company

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What did the reviews of Funny Girl say?

Funny Girl received critical acclaim upon premiering on Broadway in 1964. A New York Times review of the original Funny Girl Broadway production by Howard Taubman reads, "Since Fanny herself cannot be brought back, the next best thing is to get Barbra Streisand to sing and strut and go through comic routines à la Brice. Miss Streisand is well on her way to becoming a splendid entertainer in her own right, and in "Funny Girl" she goes as far as any performer can toward recalling the laughter and joy that were Fanny Brice."

He continues, "Miss Streisand as a young Brice bursting with energy and eagerness to improve her routines is an impudent dancing doll who refuses to run down. Miss Streisand imagining herself in a radiant future in "I'm the Greatest Star," an appealingly quirky song, is not only Fanny Brice but all young performers believing in their destinies."

Read the New York Theatre Guide Funny Girl review starring Beanie Feldstein here.

What awards has Funny Girl won?

The original Broadway production of Funny Girl received eight Tony Award nominations in 1964 but won none — the Carol Channing-led Hello, Dolly!, which premiered in the same theatre season, swept the ceremony. In 2004, however, 40 years later, the cast album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. The 2016 West End revival in London received the Whatsonstage.com Award for Best Musical Revival, along with an Olivier nomination in the same category and multiple awards nominations for the performance of lead actress Sheridan Smith.

At both the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes, Funny Girl movie was nominated for Best Picture, among other categories, and Barbra Streisand took home awards for Best Actress. The film has since been inducted into the National Film Registry and received a Writers Guild of America Award for Best Written American Musical.

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Fun facts about Funny Girl

Did you know that Funny Girl was almost a Sondheim musical and that a revival has been in the works for 10 years? Read on for some fun(ny) facts about Funny Girl that you may not know.

  • Ray Stark, the lead producer on the original musical, was Fanny Brice's son-in-law by way of his marriage to her daughter Frances.
  • The musical was born out of an attempt to honor the life of Fanny Brice. Stark had commissioned a biographical book about Brice based on voice recordings she'd taped, but he was unsatisfied with the book and stopped its publication. He turned to 11 different screenwriters to pen a biographical film about her instead, but disliked all their attempts, too. Finally, Isobel Lennart submitted a screenplay called My Man, which Stark liked and had adapted into the Funny Girl musical.
  • Stephen Sondheim was originally asked to write the lyrics for Funny Girl, but he declined. At the time, Mary Martin was being considered for the role of Fanny, and he didn't want to work on the show if Fanny wasn't being played by a Jewish actress.
  • Celebrities like Eydie Gormé and Carol Burnett were considered for the role of Fanny Brice in the 60s, but Burnett, like Sondheim, suggested that the creative team cast a Jewish actress. Composer Jule Styne thought of Barbra Streisand, who he'd seen on Broadway in I Can Get It for You Wholesale. Although producer Ray Stark's wife didn't think she was right for the part, Stark hired Streisand on the spot at her audition, and the rest is history.
  • Talks of a Funny Girl Broadway revival were in the works years ago; originally, Lauren Ambrose was supposed to star as Fanny under the direction of To Kill a Mockingbird Broadway director Bartlett Sher. That production never ended up happening, but Sher did direct Ambrose in a different classic musical revival: My Fair Lady, which enjoyed a yearlong run at Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theater.

How do I get tickets for Funny Girl on Broadway?

This production of Funny Girl is the first-ever Broadway revival of the musical, nearly 60 years after the world premiere. Another production might not come along for a long time after this, so don't miss your chance to get tickets now. If you're looking for a show with classic musical flair and equal parts feel-good moments and emotional twists, Funny Girl has it all.

Originally published on

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