Beanie Feldstein on ‘Funny Girl’ and Putting Her Own Spin on a Role Barbra Streisand Made Famous

·3-min read

It’s not an exaggeration to say Beanie Feldstein has been preparing her entire life to play Fanny Brice. For her third birthday, she requested a “Funny Girl”-themed party and seized the spotlight in pint-size leopard wrap coat and cloche hat. Twenty-five years later, Feldstein will play the incandescent comic and chanteuse — the role that helped propel Barbra Streisand to stardom — as “Funny Girl” returns to Broadway for the first time in nearly six decades.

When did you first watch “Funny Girl”?
I had to be under 3. I don’t quite remember the very first time, but I remember asking my mom to put it on every day. I became obsessed. Other kids would ask for “Elmo” or “The Little Mermaid” or “Beauty and the Beast.” I was begging for Nicky Arnstein.

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Speaking of, who is your ideal casting for Nicky Arnstein?
I can’t say. I wish I could. It has to be someone dreamy. She’s this incredibly confident woman who is not really focused on romance. And then this guy walks into her life, wearing a beautiful shirt, and sweeps her away. [Editor’s note: Since talking to Variety, producers have announced Tony nominee Ramin Karimloo will play the role of Arnstein on Broadway.]

What song are you most excited to perform?
The song that I’ve been singing the longest would be “Don’t Rain on My Parade” because I would sing that around my house as a kid. When I was 9, the only professional acting I did was one episode of “My Wife and Kids,” where they had this whole sequence of outlandish kids’ [talent show] auditions, and I sang one line from “Don’t Rain on My Parade.” But the song I’m most excited for at this moment is “I’m the Greatest Star.” It has so much personality.

Have you met Barbra Streisand to talk about the role?
I’ve never met her. I would probably be speechless, so I should take in a list of questions. I would not be able to make words. “Funny Girl” introduced me to what musicals are. A 3-year-old asking for her birthday party to be themed “Funny Girl” is as ridiculous as it sounds, but it was a foundation for my love of musical theater. I would feel my life crashing in if I ever got to meet Barbra Streisand. I would shake for days.

You made your Broadway debut in the 2017 revival of “Hello, Dolly!” Is there a third Barbra performance you plan to take on to complete the trifecta?
That is so funny — my answer would be that both came out in 1964, as did “Fiddler on the Roof.” So I feel like the third would be “Fiddler.” I’ve got Golde in me in a very real way. I’m only 28, so I have to wait until I’m old enough.

Have you been back to Broadway yet?
I went to “Shakespeare in the Park,” but I haven’t gone inside a theater yet. I saw a video from the opening night of “Wicked,” and it felt like watching a rock concert — the energy people send toward Harry Styles or Taylor Swift. For those of us that need theater, which I think is everyone, it’s like a craving. You need it. There’s nothing like experiencing live theater with other people.

How did you get your fill of musical theater during the pandemic?
I’m someone who listens to Broadway cast recordings every single day. When I was preparing for “Impeachment: [American Crime Story],” I listened to a lot of musicals because Monica [Lewinsky] is also a huge musical theater fan. We have slightly different musical theater taste. She’s more of a “Les Miz” and “Rent” kind of girl, which I have absolutely nothing against, but they’re not my ultimates.

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