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Funny Girl: A Secret History

Funny Girl: A Secret History

By: Hannah Douglas

Funny Girl is one of the most iconic pieces of musical theatre. What you may not have known is what a rocky road the show had to make it to stage! Funny Girl has had a scandalous past and looks to have an even more exciting future. Here’s everything you didn’t know and everything you need to...

Sheridan Smith rehearsing for Funny Girl  - Photography: Marc Brenner

The Funny Girls
The show is based on the real life story of legendary cabaret star Fanny Brice. The initial idea was to write a biography or film a biopic about Brice’s life. In the end it was decided that the story would make a great musical.

 The show starred Barbra Streisand and catapulted her into stardom. Streisand and Brice had many similarities. Both had left school in their mid-teens to pursue a career on the stage and had faced objections from their families in doing so. Even so, Streisand was not a popular casting choice. Five other actresses had been cast in the part and dropped out before Streisand was offered the role.

Barbra Streisand / Fanny Brice - Photography: Wikimedia

Don’t Rain On My Parade
Continuing on its chaotic path the show’s original writer, the co-producer and director Bob Fosse all quit the show before it opened. The project had to be shelved for many months and everyone started to wonder if it would even make it to stage. Eventually Funny Girl played in Boston and Philadelphia. But, after critical failure it had to go through major rewrites before it opened in New York. Even then the New York opening had to be postponed 5 times. Not all glitz and glamour it seems.

Broadway Bang!
When it finally opened on Broadway in 1964 Funny Girl was a hit and was nominated for 8 Tony awards that year. BUT, it failed to win in any category. Despite the loss the show ran for 3 years on Broadway.

West End Success
In 1966 the West End production opened at the Prince of Wales Theatre. Streisand reprised her role in the show transferring from the Broadway production. The show received rave reviews!

Sheridan Smith and company rehearsing for Funny Girl - Photography: Marc Brenner

From Stage to Screen
In 1968 Funny Girl the film was released, once again starring Streisand. The screen adaptation was the top grossing film of that year. The film won Streisand the Academy Award for Best Actress.

Funnie Fanny
The show has now been seen all over the world. In 2014 Funny Girl made new headlines when a touring production adapted the role of Fanny to Funnie and cast a male as the lead. This production travelled around Europe and South America.

Small Screen Spectacular
Bringing Funny Girl to a modern audience the show played a huge part in the final seasons of hit US show Glee when characters auditioned  for a fictitious New York revival of the show.

The Next Funny Girl
With such an illustrious yet turbulent past it’s no surprise that there is so much excitement surrounding the current revival starring Sheridan Smith. Opening at the Savoy on 9 April this production looks set to add another riveting chapter to the epic history of Funny Girl.

Sheridan Smith and company rehearsing for Funny Girl - Photography: Marc Brenner

Tickets for Funny Girl are selling fast. Book tickets here.