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August 5, 2011

Wondering what to make of Lauren Ambrose as the next 'Funny Girl'

It took a couple of days for the news to sink in that Lauren Ambrose has been chosen to head the cast in the Bartlett Sher-directed revival of "Funny Girl" due for a Broadway run next year. Talk about outside-the-box casting.

Of course, I'm not rushing to judgment. Ambrose is a talented actress, as "Six Feet Under" fans can attest with particular enthusiasm. And it does make a certain sort of sense that Sher should want to avoid picking someone to portray Fanny Brice who suggests the peerless originator of the role, Barbra Streisand.

Such a person is out there, of course -- Lea Michelle from "Glee," who practically gave a national audition during the 2010 Tony Awards, when she bounded in belting "Don't Rain On My Parade." Michelle would certainly have given the assignment her all, but there's no guarantee the result wouldn't have ended up seeming like an intense, yet ultimately pale, imitation of the deified Streisand.

Ambrose will step onstage without that issue in the picture, but she will still have to create a credible characterization. Perhaps she will end up closer than Streisand did to re-creating Brice's character in authentic detail; maybe Ambrose will take the role in directions none of us can imagine .

While we await the outcome, here's a little comparison test of Ambrose and Michelle singing the Fanny Brice classic that isn't in the Broadway "Funny Girl" score, but was added to the movie version, having become a stunning Streisand anthem. I think you'll notice a few little differences of approach from these two young, gifted performers:

Posted by Tim Smith at 10:04 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Drama Queens


I think casting Lauren Ambrose was genius. She is well known for Six Feet Under but not thought of as a comedienne or singer. I imagine she will be fabulous.

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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