As the curtains prepare to close on its New York stint, the Broadway revival of “Funny Girl” finds itself in the spotlight once more, not for its performances, but for its casting choices. The heart of the matter? The cultural authenticity of its lead role.
The Journey from London to New York
Back in 2016, London’s West End witnessed Sheridan Smith, a non-Jewish English actress, stepping into the shoes of Fanny Brice, the iconic Jewish comedienne. Fast forward to 2022, Broadway welcomed Beanie Feldstein, a Jewish actress, to take on the same role. However, her vocal prowess (or lack thereof) left many scratching their heads. 🤔
Enter Lea Michele
By summer’s end, Feldstein exited stage left, making way for “Glee” star Lea Michele. Despite her past controversies, Michele’s performance breathed new life into the show, with her renditions of “I’m the Greatest Star” and “Don’t Rain on My Parade” receiving standing ovations.
The National Tour Dilemma
With the Broadway chapter closing, eyes turned to the national tour’s casting. Enter Katerina McCrimmon, a Miami native with Hispanic roots. Her casting as Brice, a Jewish character, has reignited the debate on cultural representation. Did the producers anticipate this? Probably. But it’s also likely that McCrimmon’s audition was nothing short of spectacular.
Reflections from the Past
It’s a déjà vu moment, reminiscent of the “Fiddler on the Roof” revival two decades ago. Alfred Molina’s casting as Tevye, a Jewish character, raised eyebrows. The role later went to Harvey Fierstein, a Jewish actor.
What’s in a Role?
In a candid chat with Broadway News, Tony-winning songwriter Jason Robert Brown weighed in on the debate. “There’s something powerful about a Jewish actor playing a Jewish role,” he remarked. While talent is paramount, the authenticity a performer brings to a culturally specific role is undeniable.
As the curtains rise and fall, the debate on cultural authenticity in casting continues. But one thing’s for sure: theater, in all its forms, has the power to spark conversations, challenge norms, and touch hearts. ❤️ And for those looking to relive the magic on stage, you can buy your Funny Girl tickets now to watch the timeless classic unfold in Broadway, New York.