Idina Menzel almost starred in a revival of ‘Funny Girl’ but then ‘COVID happened’
Fanny get your runs, we coulda had Menzel as Brice?
Lester Fabian Brathwaite
525,600 minutes. How do you measure … measure yet another year without Idina Menzel as Fanny Brice?
The Broadway vet seems an obvious choice to have starred in Funny Girl at some point, and turns out she almost did. On a recent episode of Watch What Happens Live, the Rent and Wicked star described how the pandemic rained on her parade.
“I was supposed to,” Menzel told host Andy Cohen about taking on the iconic role. “But I always thought I’d be too old. They were gonna maybe go to the Brice estate and see if they could sort of encapsulate more of her life. Yes, but it didn’t work out, COVID happened.”
ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 09: Idina Menzel attends D23 Expo 2022 at Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California on September 09, 2022. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney); NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 06: Lea Michele as “Fanny Brice” in “Funny Girl” on Broadway at The August Wilson Theatre on September 6, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/WireImage)
Idina Menzel (left), who played Lea Michele’s mom on ‘Glee,’ almost starred in a revival of ‘Funny Girl’
| Credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty for Disney; Bruce Glikas/WireImage
What’s this “too old” business? This is Broad-way! If Idina Menzel can defy gravity, what’s to stop her from defying age restrictions.
Of course, Funny Girl finally made its way back to The Great White Way after Barbra Streisand originated and all but retired the role nearly 60 years ago. No one dared step into Streisand’s shoes on Broadway until Beanie Feldstein bravely, if misguidedly, took on the challenge earlier this year.
After a run hampered by illness, tepid reviews, and the ghost of Nicky Arnstein, Feldstein left the show and was replaced by Lea Michele in a cloud of controversy and veiled sighs of relief.
Menzel played Michele’s absentee mother Shelby Corcoran on Glee and gave her former onscreen daughter her seal of approval, even though she’s yet to see her performance.
“Lea’s the right choice,” Menzel said of Michele. “I haven’t seen her yet because I live in L.A., and I haven’t been back.”
Though Menzel missed her chance to be Broadway’s greatest star, she did get to sing “Don’t Rain on My Parade” in front of the O.G. Fanny Brice, Ms. Barbra Joan Streisand, at her Kennedy Center Honors tribute in 2008. An experience she described as “daunting” and “horrifying.” But things got truly horrifying after her performance.
Menzel was seated at Streisand’s table after she sang her heart and lungs out, and the legend didn’t even recognize her for “about an hour.”
“And then at one point, she had her fan and her glasses, and she lowered her glass, and she said, ‘Did you sing ‘Don’t Rain on My Parade’ for me tonight?’ And I said, ‘Yes I did, Ms. Streisand.’ She said, ‘You were good,'” she recalled, mimicking Streisand.
“And then she got up and left. I’ve since met her. Since then, she’s been completely gracious,” Menzel continued. “But that night, I thought, ‘Is that good? Was that a good compliment or a bad compliment?'”
Judging from the unimpressed look on Barbra Streisand’s face in the above clip, it was probably as good a compliment as anyone could get. Then again, when’s the last time Barbra Streisand’s been impressed by anything?