A year ago, Lea Michele had just moved back to New York City and was embracing life as a new mother to her son, Ever. Now, she’s taken the stage of the August Wilson Theatre as the latest actor to step into the role of Fanny Brice in “Funny Girl.”
But the catalyst for Michele reclaiming center stage on Broadway was actually a reunion concert for the musical that put her on the map.
In the newest episode of “The Broadway Show with Tamsen Fadal,” scheduled to air on Saturday, Sept. 24, Michele catches up with Broadway.com’s Paul Wontorek, the two touching upon these topics and more.
Michele says that the buzzy anniversary concert of “Spring Awakening,” which took place on Nov. 15, 2021, sparked something within her reigniting an “extreme desire to perform.”
“Did you see this happening at that point?,” Wontorek asks, wondering if Michele knew a year ago she’d wind up back on Broadway in this coveted role.
“No,” Michele laughs. “I didn’t.”
But in reality, leading “Funny Girl” on Broadway has been in the cards for Michele since she first sang “Don’t Rain on My Parade” as her “Glee” character Rachel Berry on the hit TV series back in 2009. The season-one episode instantly became an iconic pop culture moment that would stand the test of time.
In fact, Wontorek is quick to point out how “meta” it all feels for Michele to finally be performing the role for hundreds of people each night.
“‘Funny Girl’ has been a part of my life in so many phases of my life,” Michele says, noting that she was first introduced to the 1968 film in 2006 by Michael Mayer (director of both “Spring Awakening” and this “Funny Girl” revival) while she was performing in “Spring Awakening.” Then, the musical and role became a massive plot point on “Glee.” And now, the rest is history.
Michele almost stepped into Fanny’s shoes years ago, but a planned 2014 revival didn’t work out.
“I was really okay,” she says of the failed revival. “I played the part so much on ‘Glee’ and sang the songs and so I felt very at peace with it.”
“For me, I can’t disregard how much ‘Glee’ has played a part in all of this,” she tells Wontorek. She credits one of the series’ creators, Ryan Murphy, with bringing Fanny and the story and songs of “Funny Girl” to a new generation. Murphy saw Michele take her first bow as Fanny on Sept. 6, and she recalls how he was “so emotional.”
“And here we are now,” Michele says.
“It’s really just such a full-circle moment in so many ways.”
Michele and Wontorek discuss a variety of topics in the “Broadway Show” episode, including how Michele has carried “Funny Girl” with her for nearly two decades and how different it is to play Fanny without the framework of Rachel Berry and “Glee.” Michele’s onstage mother, Tovah Feldshuh, who joined the company with Michele on Sept. 6, also makes an appearance to chat with Wontorek.
“The Broadway Show with Tamsen Fadal” airs on weekends. Check your local listings for air time and channel.