The Broadway revival of “Funny Girl” starring Lea Michele has officially become a hit. The show’s lead producers, Sonia Friedman, Scott Landis, and David Babani, announced on Monday that the production has recouped its capitalization costs of $16.5 million. This is a remarkable feat considering the financial challenges faced by the commercial theater industry, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since the onset of the pandemic, only a few Broadway productions have managed to recoup their capitalization costs. With higher expenses and smaller audiences, the economics of Broadway have become even more difficult. However, “Funny Girl” stands out as an exceptional case. It is the first revival of a show that was previously thought to be impossible to revive due to the reputation of its original star, Barbra Streisand.
The revival opened at the August Wilson Theater in April 2022 with Beanie Feldstein in the title role. However, the show received underwhelming reviews from critics and did not win any Tony Awards. By summer, ticket sales were declining. In an effort to turn things around, the producers replaced Feldstein with Lea Michele, who had gained fame from the television show “Glee” and had portrayed the lead character in a fictional revival of “Funny Girl.”
The casting change generated significant press coverage and received rave reviews. Michele’s performance was praised by critics, with Charles McNulty of The Los Angeles Times calling it one of the top five musical theater performances he had seen in his lifetime. As a result, ticket sales skyrocketed, and the production was able to generate enough revenue to recoup its development costs. Michele, who had faced allegations of poor behavior towards her “Glee” co-workers, worked diligently to reinvent her public image and received widespread acclaim for her portrayal of the iconic character.
In addition to “Funny Girl,” a few other Broadway shows have announced recoupment since the pandemic shutdown. These include “Six,” a pop musical about the wives of King Henry VIII, “MJ,” a Michael Jackson biomusical, and “Prima Facie,” a one-woman play about sexual assault starring Jodie Comer. Some shows that opened prior to the pandemic, such as “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” and “Moulin Rouge!,” have also managed to recoup their costs since theaters reopened. It is worth noting that not all shows publicly announce their recoupment, so there may be other successful productions that have quietly achieved this milestone in recent months.
Looking ahead, a tour of “Funny Girl” is scheduled to begin next month in Providence, R.I., with Katerina McCrimmon taking on the lead role.