Wednesday, June 19, 2024

“Funny Girl” is Returning to Broadway with a Twist: Florence Ziegfeld is a Black Man This Time


“Funny Girl” is coming back to Broadway for the first time since the original production closed in 1967.

But this time around, one of the characters will look a little different. In 2022, Florence Ziegfeld, the man who employed Fanny Brice, will be played by a Black actor. The formidable Peter Francis James will take the role played famously in the 1968 movie by Walter Pidgeon.

James — with 7 Broadway productions under his belt — will be the only Black actor in the main cast, but even that is an achievement. “Funny Girl” is set in a time and place where Black characters wouldn’t have been normally included.

Luckily, we have color blind casting now. So Flo Ziegfeld, who was a Roman Catholic with German roots but was born in Illinois in 1867, is ripe for a change. And look, his name is Florence, so he could begin by explaining that first.

The rest of the cast, like James, is top notch: Beanie Feldstein as Fanny, Ramin Karimloo as Nicky Arnstein, Jared Grimes as Eddie Ryan, and the great Jane Lynch as Fanny’s mother.

Performances begin March 26th at the August Wilson Theater, where “Slave Play” just wrapped its short return run. Opening night is April 24th. The real action will be the Tony Awards, where “Funny Girl” will be up against the Hugh Jackman revival of “The Music Man.” Ouch! That will be a brutal competition!


Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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