Saturday, May 18, 2024

Broadway: “Funny Girl” Star Beanie Feldstein Keeps Missing Shows, Giving Understudy Julie Benko a Surprise Showcase


It pains me to say this. But there’s some trouble at “Funny Girl.”

I’m a big fan of Beanie Feldstein, who plays Fanny Brice, the star role created decades ago by Barbra Streisand.

But at today’s matinee understudy Julie Benko — said to be quite good — will be playing the part. She also filled in this past Wednesday at the matinee, and all of last weekend’s three shows.

Benko also subbed for Beanie the first weekend after the show opened. Ms. Feldstein went to a wedding.

The missed shows are giving Benko a great showcase. But they’re also begging the question of what’s going on at “Funny Girl”?

The musical revival was snubbed by the Tony Awards in all categories excepted Jared Grimes as featured actor in a musical. The fact that Beanie was ignored is really criminal: she’s excellent and deserved the nomination.

Are the missed performances because of disappointment? Allergies? Allergies to the Tony Awards? COVID (probably not, because the absences are spotty).

Beanie’s got to remember that People who Love People Are the Luckiest People, and she’s very Lucky to have that job. The audience is buying tickets to see her. They don’t care about the Tony nominations.

As for Benko, there are plenty of Broadway stories about understudies who took over the main roles and became famous. Two notable examples: Michele Lee in “How to Succeed in Business” and Shirley MacLaine in “Pajama Game.” The departures of the leads turned out to be career making for those ladies. So Julie Benko, just hold on.

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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