Funny Girl

Original Broadway Production (1964)

Trivia & History

When Barbra Streisand was first mentioned as a possibility for Fanny, composer Jule Styne sent his assistant to see her nightclub act. The assistant returned and wasn't very positive. However, Styne went to see her at the Bon Soir and was quite enthusiastic, returning several nights in a row. When Streisand auditioned, even the usually-stoic Jerome Robbins applauded. However, Fran Stark, Fanny Brice's daughter, didn't share the enthusiasm. She said, "That girl play my mother? I wouldn't hire her as my maid!"


Jerome Robbins was originally supposed to direct and choreograph. However, he left the production. Bob Fosse was hired as a replacement but he quit in September 1963 after working on the show for just a few weeks.

David Merrick was originally to co-produce the show with Ray Stark, but in December 1963, shortly before rehearsals were to start, Merrick dissolved his association with the production.


In September 1963, Garson Kanin was sought as director. They played him the score and he didn't respond for several days.

One night, Jule Styne and his wife were going to Sardi's for dinner. Kanin and his wife, Ruth Gordon, were coming out. Styne cornered Kanin and wouldn't let him go until he agreed to do the show.


The first day of rehearsals, after the read-through, Jule Styne asked Barbra Streisand to do some of the songs for the cast. She did and wowed them. 


Garson Kanin was reluctant to direct Streisand because he was in awe of her. Ruth Gordon, Kanin's wife, used to stand on the front of the stage and mouth all of the words to Streisand, who would parrot her, and Kanin loved it.


The tryouts were quite difficult.

First, Fanny Brice's daughter maintained a great deal of control and wanted to gloss over the real story of her mother.

Also, Garson Kanin was not taking the show in the direction that the others wanted. Everyone agreed to give up a portion of their royalties to get Jerome Robbins back. Kanin, however, wouldn't leave and continued to be a presence. Robbins didn't do much of anything. Jule Styne's widow remembers that his major contribution was the counterpoint for Fanny in "You are Woman".


Sydney Chaplin had signed a contract to stay in the show through April 1, 1966. In mid-June 1965, it was announced that he would be leaving the show after the performance on June 19. Chaplin denied rumors that he was leaving because of a dispute with Barbra Streisand. He said that the dispute that was causing him to leave was with the show's producer, Ray Stark.

According to a report in the New York Times (June 17, 1965), he and the management had come to an agreement that he would be paid $2,100 a week through the end of his contract.


In the four-disc Streisand set Just for the Record, there are two songs from Streisand's final Broadway performance as Fanny Brice: "I'm the Greatest Star" and the encore she did that night of "My Man." The notes for the set give the date of the performance as December 26, 1965, but that date is incorrect. Streisand's final performance in the Broadway production occurred the day before — Saturday night, December 25, 1965. 

The fact that the show performed on Christmas day may seem odd to some, but contemporary listings for Broadway shows suggest that every Broadway show performed on Christmas day in 1965. Even as recently as 2014, when it's become more common for some Broadway shows not to perform on Christmas day, 18 Broadway shows did perform on Christmas day, as can be seen in this article.

At one time, it was not even all that unusual for Broadway shows to open on Christmas day. The most famous Broadway show to open on Christmas day was probably the original production of Pal Joey, but a number of other shows did, though no Broadway shows in recent decades have done so.

Perhaps the strongest confirmation that Streisand's final performance was on December 25 comes from the issue of Variety publshed December 29, 1965. An article titled "Barbra's 'Funny Girl' Swan Song" stated this: "Barbra Streisand made a curtain speech and sang 'My Man' with the conclusion Saturday night (25) of her final performance in the Broadway company of 'Funny Girl' at the Winter Garden, N.Y."

 

 



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