Inside Lea Michele's first performance in 'Funny Girl' on Broadway

Two NYTG writers attended the performance and share what it was like to see Michele become the greatest star.

Gillian Russo
Gillian Russo

Life imitated art last night at Funny Girl on Broadway, when Lea Michele took her first bow in the role of Fanny Brice. Not only has the Emmy-nominated actress spoken often about her own love of Funny Girl, but her Glee character, Rachel Berry, also landed the role in the final season of the TV series. That episode almost feels like a prophecy now that Michele has become the greatest star of the first Broadway revival.

That first performance is certain to go down in theatre history, and the celebrity guests, audience reaction, and performances were all the immediate talk of Twitter. Two New York Theatre Guide writers, Caitlin Berg and Analise Scarpaci, attended the performance and broke down the highlights of the night. It may have rained in New York, but nobody rained on Michele's parade.

Analise Scarpaci: First off, I thought the rain was ironic. 

Caitlin Berg: The rain was hilarious. I think it made her debut even more iconic. Ironic to iconic.

Analise: Walking in, I saw celebrities and friends and strangers all here for one reason, and it made me remember why I love going to the theatre. The energy at intermission... unmatched.

Caitlin: I walked in and the first people I saw were Ryan Murphy and Jonathan Groff. I stood behind Governor Kathy Hochul in line to get to my seat. I thought she might be there to make a speech, but she didn't. She literally was just there because she also wanted to see it. I'm obsessed. It felt like history.

Analise: It was history. I felt like I was 11 years old again.

Caitlin: I felt the same way. I was obsessed with her growing up. I even got bangs to look like Rachel Berry when I was in eighth grade.

Analise: Iconic! Watching somebody who you've listened to your whole life, singing the songs you once sang along to in the car, was something I'll never forget. There's nothing like watching someone's dream come true. It was otherworldly. 

Caitlin: I sat in between a friend of mine who also works in the industry and my mom, and during "I'm The Greatest Star," I completely broke down. I absolutely wouldn't work in theatre had it not been for Glee, especially Rachel. It felt like I was seeing not only her dreams come true, but also mine. Everyone around me who looked our age was also sobbing. 

Analise: I never cry at the theatre. It takes a whole lot for me to cry... I cried six times. For everyone. For Tovah, for the company, for Lea, for the crew. Funny Girl is such a classic and performing for a crowd that was literally electric — there must have been seven standing ovations — feels so incredibly special.

Caitlin: Same! I think the last time I cried was at the Waitress reopening. And also, [Lea] was just amazing. Not even just her singing, which was unbelievable, but her comic timing, acting, and chemistry with everyone — from Tovah Feldshuh (also incredible) to Ramin Karimloo (when he first came out, my mom goes "who is that," which was also very iconic) to Jared Grimes (what on earth? How do you dance like that?) to every ensemble member — was perfect. She was unbelievable. 

Analise: The accent!

Caitlin: The accent was so good.

Analise: The voices, the acting, the choreography, the costumes. Truly everything that a classic like Funny Girl needs. Both Tovah and Lea were giving a masterclass in musical theatre comedy, and it was such a joy to watch all of the actors play with each other. There's nothing like watching actors have fun.

Caitlin: My review is simply: Get your tickets.

Analise: Even if you've been before, go again. 

Caitlin: I can't believe it's just happening every night, and we can just go. 

Analise: Exactly. I want to go back and watch my friends watch Funny Girl any day or night.

Photo credit: Lea Michele in Funny Girl. (Photo by Bruce Glikas)

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