One of Broadway’s biggest and busiest names, the inimitable Harvey Fierstein, is being lined up to take on the task of turning the classic Funny Girl into a musical fit for its new leading lady, Sheridan Smith.
According to the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye, Fierstein, who’s already celebrating both the West End success of Kinky Boots for which he provided the libretto and the London debut of his own play Casa Valentina, will take on the task of ensuring the show that debuted over 50 years ago works for a modern audience and a modern leading lady.
Loosely based on the life of Ziegfeld Follies star, the comedienne Fanny Brice, and focusing on her turbulent relationship with charismatic gambler Nicky Arnstein, Funny Girl was the vehicle that took Barbra Streisand from Broadway to Hollywood.
Brice’s son-in-law Ray Stark came up with the original idea of turning her story into a film, but it was Broadway legend Mary Martin who suggested the resulting book by Isobel Lennart would work as a stage musical. When producer David Merrick came on board he brought in Jule Styne to provide the music and he in turn, brought in Bob Merrill as the lyricist.
A number of major names had been considered for the starring role before Styne suggested a young woman he had seen in a production of I Can Get It For You Wholesale, Streisand. The musical finally debuted on Broadway in March 1964 with Streisand heading a cast that also included Sydney Chaplin, Jean Stapleton and Lainie Kazan.
Streisand would go on to reprise the role two years later in the West End production at the Prince of Wales Theatre, although she left the role early after falling pregnant and was replaced by her understudy, Lisa Shane. In 1968 she would return to the role and give an Oscar-winning performance in William Wyler’s big screen version.
Fierstein will reportedly join a creative team (including director Michael Mayer) intent on taking a show that has for so long been intrinsically linked to Streisand into a showcase for the talents of the award-winning Smith.
Funny Girl – playing from 20 November 2015 to 5 March 2016 – has broken box office records at the Menier, becoming the theatre’s fastest-selling production. The show is presented in association with Sonia Friedman Productions and Scott Landis.
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