The “greatest star” is back! More than five decades after its original Broadway debut, Funny Girl is running now under the bright lights of the August Wilson Theater. The 1964 Tony-nominated musical-turned-movie was the vehicle that launched American songstress Barbra Streisand’s entertainment career into the stratosphere. Now, the role of the lovable, plucky hopeless romantic Fanny Brice is bringing delight to a new generation of musical theatre lovers. Here are six reasons why you do not want to miss Funny Girl’s long-awaited revival:
1. It offers a little taste of history.
The protagonist of Funny Girl was based on a real woman named Fanny Brice. That’s right, the hysterical crooner was a performer, comedian, and Broadway star in the early 20th century. And while the musical—written by Isobel Lennart and Bob Merrill and composed by Jule Styne—is not a complete biography, it is a riff on Brice’s actual marriage to professional gambler Nicky Arnstein. Although the journey the fictional Brice and Arnstein take is a tumultuous one, the musical reminds audiences that the real Brice was a brave woman, willing to sacrifice for what she wanted most.
2. It’s a landmark role for Jewish women in the theatre.
Barbra Streisand originated the role of Fanny Brice—a young Jewish girl from the Lower East Side who dreams of seeing her name in lights, particularly as part of legendary producer Florenz Ziegfeld’s musical revue. Jewish culture underscores Fanny’s heart and sense of humor, and her family, along with the Jewish community grew up within, contribute to her drive. She also has a habit of flowing in and out of accents and inserting a Yiddish phrase or two.
3. It’s chock-full of iconic tunes.
If there’s one reason why Funny Girl has remained etched into the hearts of audiences around the world for so many years, it’s because of the music. From the joke-laced duet “You Are Woman” and beltress-beloved “Don’t Rain on My Parade” to the romantic ballad “People” and affirming “I’m the Greatest Star,” Funny Girl has no shortage of well-known theatre classics. You’ll have a hard time not singing along with the ensemble and orchestra conducted by Michael Rafter.
4. Funny Girl is actually, well, funny!
Sometimes the humor is broad and physical; other times it’s subtle and lies in Fanny’s lilt. Regardless of what suits your taste, you will be sure to walk away with a smile on your face. And Fanny isn’t the only one leaving her audience in stitches! Characters like Mrs. Brice (Fanny’s mother), Eddie Ryan (Fanny’s choreographer), and Mrs. Meeker and Mrs. Strakosh (family friends) are also fan favorites.
5. Major revivals have been few and far between
For such a beloved piece of theatre history, Funny Girl has only had a handful of major productions since its original debut—and none on Broadway before this current revival. There are several theories about why Fanny Brice is still a rarity on the world’s grandest stages, and many think that Barbra Streisand’s original tie to the role is too strong to compete with, but that’s just more motivation to support the revival we have today.
6. It’s a quintessentially New York City story
New York is for artists and hustlers. Oftentimes, they are one and the same. Not only is the show set in Manhattan, Fanny’s drive to make her dreams come true at all costs carries the NYC spirit. And she’s not alone. The men and women of Henry Street are all pining for a better life, whether it comes by way of marriage, beauty, the stage, or even a good hand of cards.