By Barbara & Scott Siegel . . .

When there is so much about the revival of Funny Girl that is actually cause for celebration, why is the show ultimately so disappointing? Put another way, Ramin Karimloo is the best Nick Arnstein Funny Girl has ever had; so, too, Jane Lynch is a sensational Mrs. Brice, and Jared Grimes is a show-stopping Eddie Ryan. But the show has an insurmountable problem when the star of the show, Beanie Feldstein, is being outshone by everyone else in the cast.

At the show’s very core, if you can’t believe that the character of Fanny Brice has the goods to become a big star in Ziegfeld’s Follies, then she hasn’t got the goods to star in Funny Girl on Broadway. But the fault is not Ms. Feldstein’s — any young actress would jump at the role — the fault lies with those who chose her. And here is the bottom line: what distinguishes Funny Girl most, besides its history of having made Barbra Streisand a star, is its score. Why in the world would you hire someone who can’t knock those tunes out of the park?

Can Ms. Feldstein sing the songs? Yes, but hitting the notes is not performing the songs. It’s as if a pleasantly competent community theater actress has been thrust upon a Broadway stage to warble songs that dozens, if not scores, of musical theater actresses can sing to the rafters. They wouldn’t have to sing as well as Streisand — who does? — but the score would have been better served and the musical (remember, it’s a MUSICAL!) would have what it needs at its vital center.

Jared Grimes – Beanie Feldstein

There is another sort of villainy at work here, though. Once again, a Broadway musical has turned to another medium to choose its star. While Ms. Feldstein has a little Broadway history behind her, playing a small role in the recent revival of Hello, Dolly!, her modest fame is from her performances in films. And here is the damning quote from a New York Times feature about this production of Funny Girl and the search for its star: “Every TV show you watch, every movie you watch — you’re just constantly looking for your Fanny Brice,” Barbara Hogenson (the literary agent representing the rights holders to the show) said. There was no effort to look at musical theater actresses for the part. None! Oh, they talked to Idina Menzel, but she is at least fifteen years too old for the part. Come on!

This is the only instance in which a comparison to Barbra Streisand is fair to make. When she was hired to star in Funny Girl in 1964, she was not a TV or a movie star; she was a relatively unknown actress who made a splash in a supporting role in a failed Broadway show, who was  making some waves as a NYC nightclub singer. Frankly, the only way to cast the current Funny Girl is also with a relative unknown, so why not look at all of the incredibly talented young actresses right here in NYC who have been trained in musical theater and who could actually sing and act the role of Fanny Brice? This is one case in which the failure of Broadway to build and sustain musical theater stars would have been a plus for Funny Girl; they could have created a star!

No, it’s not Ms. Feldstein’s fault, though she will bear the brunt of the criticism. What a shame, that after 58 years, and so many failed attempts to revive the show for Broadway, that when the show finally arrived the producing team got the one thing they needed to get right, wrong.