Four days after making her “Funny Girl” debut, Lea Michele is dropping out of Saturday’s performances after detecting “early signs and symptoms” of COVID-19.
Her understudy Julie Benko will fill in as Fanny Brice.
“I’m devastated to say that due to early signs and symptoms of COVID and an inconclusive test result due to the production’s safety protocols, I’m not allowed to perform for today’s shows,” Michele announced on her Instagram Stories. “I will be testing again and will know more about tomorrow’s performance soon. Julie is going to crush it today as Fanny — as are all of our amazing understudies who have stepped up so incredibly this week while we battle a very intense covid outbreak in our theater.”
In a separate statement, the production announced that Michele was one of multiple company members who had possibly contracted the virus.
“We also acknowledge and celebrate all of our incredibly talented standbys, swings and understudies, who are going on to cover a number of company members who are unable to perform due to industry COVID protocols, as well as everyone else working on the production, committed to giving audiences a great show,” read the Instagram post.
Michele gave her first performance on Tuesday night in front of a packed house at the August Wilson Theatre. Though critics weren’t in attendance, her opening night received an estimated six to seven standing ovations and rave reviews on social media. Tuesday also marked the debut performance of Tovah Feldshuh, who replaced Jane Lynch as Mrs. Brice.
The “Glee” star’s sold-out performance comes as a welcome change for the Broadway revival, which has been beset with problems since it opened on April 24. Beanie Feldstein’s take on Fanny Brice opened to lukewarm reviews, followed by months of faltering ticket sales and health issues (Feldstein contracted both COVID-19 and tonsilitis, causing her to miss performances). Eventually, producers’ mishandled plans to replace her went public, and Feldstein and Lynch announced that they would be leaving the show at the end of July, after initially setting early departures for September.
In early July, Michele — a four-time Broadway performer whose “Glee” character spent much of the series campaigning to play Fanny Brice — and Tony Award nominee Feldshuh were revealed as their replacements. Ticket prices skyrocketed to as high as $2,500 the following day.