Prince of Wales Theatre
Coventry Street, London
April 13, 1966 — July 16, 1966
London Cast (In Order of Appearance)
- Barbra Streisand ... Fanny Brice
- John Griffin ... John, Stage Manager
- Isabelle Lucas ... Emma
- Kay Medford ... Mrs. Brice
- Stella Moray ... Mrs. Strakosh
- Frances Wells Robertson ... Mrs. Meeker
- Lorraine Quinn ... Mrs. O'Malley
- Jack Cunningham ... Tom Keeney
- Lee Allen ... Eddie Ryan
- Jimmy Land ... Snub Taylor
- Michael Craig ... Nick Arnstein
- Ronald Leigh-Hunt... Florenz Ziegfeld
- Showgirls: Sarah Brackett, Jane Clarke, Valerie Leon, Melvina Price, Jennie Walton, Maggie Wright
Barbra Streisand knew the Prince of Wales Theatre: Her husband Elliott Gould was there in 1963 performing in a revival of On The Town. Streisand, howver, arrived in London in 1966 to perform Funny Girl in the West End. “I'm more nervous than if I were doing a new play,” she told writer Sheilah Graham. “It's serious here.”
Residing in a townhouse flat at 48 Ennismore Gardens during her stay in London, Streisand elaborated: “I had a marvelous 3 ½ weeks touring Europe with Elliott [Gould, her husband] before we started rehearsals—Paris, Rome, Marseille, Nice, Florence. I attended some of the fashion shows in Paris. Never again. They rush you too much. The only clothes I liked were from Dior. All that cut-out stuff is not for me.
“I love London,” she continued. “I've always wanted to have tea and cakes. I've had jellied eels, and last Sunday I went to the East End for fish and chips. Wild. I've been here once before, to see my husband when he was starring in On the Town. I like English food. I don't like French food, too rich. I love the English, they're so amused at money. Because someone said I was the highest-paid performer in the world, everyt time they write about me they call me that.”
Above: March 17, 1966 Streisand and Elliott Gould are welcomed by photographers when they arrive at Heathrow Airport.
Below: On March 20, 1966 Streisand gave a press conference at the Savoy Hotel in London and also posed for photographers outside in the Embankment Gardens.
Barbra and the Funny Girl company performed a free show on Sunday, April 10th for theater people working in the West End.
Two days later (April 12, 1966) H.R.H. Princess Margaret chatted with Barbra Streisand after attending a charity performance of Funny Girl. The evening's performance raised £10,000 for the Invalid Children's Aid Association, of which the Princess was President. When Princess Margaret told Streisand how difficult it was for performers to work onstage when the audience was busy watching the Royal theater box, Streisand replied, “Then why don't you come back sometime when you're not here.”
Funny Girl officially opened April 13, 1966. Lawrence Kasha directed the London version of the show. Kay Medford and Lee Allen repeated their Broadway roles in London. The London Funny Girl ticket prices hit a new high for theater tickets in that town: two pounds five shillings.
Above: Left—Streisand and Gould kiss on Funny Girl's London Opening Night. Right—Millicent Martin flanks Streisand at opening night party.
“I don' think it was electric out there. They were so quiet, I only felt the things that were going wrong. I wish they didn't have first nights,” Streisand told the Daily Mirror—despite the fact she took six curtain calls that evening at the 1,100-seat Prince of Wales Theatre. After the cast party, Streisand headed for a second party in Liecester square.
Below: Barbra on the London stage during “Funny Girl's” curtain call.
PHOTOS FROM THE LONDON PRODUCTION:
Below: Jimmy Land—left—as Snub Taylor, and—right—Kay Medford as Fanny's mother and Lee Allen as Eddie Ryan, a family friend, claim that between them they have taught Fanny all she knows about her career.
Below: A moment from "Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat," one of the Ziegfeld numbers in the show; Fanny's husband (Michael Craig) visits her in her dressing room after his release from prison and tells her their marriage is finished; Fanny and Nick kiss.
Barbra's Adventures in London
Above: On March 24, 1966, Barbra Streisand and Funny Girl's West End producer Arthur Lewis arrived at the World Premiere of Alfie at the Plaza Theatre, London.
Below: Also in March, Streisand went to the Criterion Theatre, Piccadilly Circus, London to see the play The Owl and the Pussycat starring her former Harry Stoones castmate Diana Sands. Streisand would play the same role four years later in the film version of the play.
Below: The Goulds in London
Below: On June 26, 1966, Streisand and husband Elliott Gould attended the opening of an exhibition at the Grosvenor Gallery. The paintings were by Jason Monet—an artist friend. Monet told writer Donald Zec: “I owed seven months rent on my Bayswater flat I remember. The Goulds found out and suggested I have an exhibition. I didn't feel ready but they talked me into it. Barbra opened the show at the then Grosvenor Gallery, Davies Street [...] and she got even more excited than myself whenever I sold anything.” At the time it was reported that Streisand owned 14 paintings by Jason Monet.
Below: Barbra Streisand looks into a pewter tankard presented by Sir Fordham Flower to her at the Savoy Hotel in London, England on June 3, 1966. The award given by the Whitbread Brewery Company was given to Streisand for an outstanding contribution by an American to the the British Theater. Sir Flower, at left, is O.B.E. chairman of the Whitbread Brewery Company.
Richard Mills, who was part of the management team that presented Barbra in Funny Girl in the West End wrote:
[Streisand] guarded her musical like a lioness guarding her cubs. Each night after the curtain came down, she would have a meeting onstage which would be attended by the musical director, ballet mistress, stage management, sound operator, the heads of all technical departments and on many occasions, me. I can’t recall any lack of validity in any of the notes she gave.
More from Richard Mills:
While she was appearing at the Prince of Wales, stories abounded about how difficult she was — all untrue. The press would constantly ring me and everyone connected with the show, to try and get an adverse quote. I’ll give you a sample of a call to me.
‘Is it true Miss Streisand will not let anyone have a dressing room on the same floor as her?’
Answer: ‘there are no other dressing rooms on her floor’.
Question: ‘is it true she won’t let the rest of the cast use the same staircase as her?’
Answer: ‘her dressing room is next to an indoor fire escape staircase, which leads down to the side of the stage, and as she has a lot of quick changes, this is her fastest route’.
Question: ‘is it true that she insists on carpet being laid from her dressing room to the side of the stage, for her to walk on?’
Answer: ‘yes. Most of her dresses are long and flowing, and she wants to keep them clean by not trailing them along stone floors’.
Question: ‘does she call everyone on stage every night in order to tell them what to do?’
Answer: ‘no. She has been given artistic control of the show, like a director, and in order to maintain the integrity of the production, she has a meeting on stage each night, with all the heads of the various departments, in order to run over any problems which may have arisen during that evening’s performance’.
And so it went on. To the best of my knowledge, the press never got an authentic bad story.
In 1997 Barbra Streisand told talk show host Rosie O’Donnell that it was her best friend, Cis Corman, who told Barbra she was pregnant—on opening night! Barbra eventually announced her pregnancy during the London run.
Barbra continued to perform the role after announcing her pregnancy, although some of the choreography and excessive physicality (i.e. Barbra jumping onto the chaise lounge during “You Are Woman”) was altered to take Barbra’s “condition” into consideration. Understudy Lisa Shane covered several shows for Streisand during the London run, especially Saturday evening shows starting in mid-May 1966 after Streisand found a two-show day too physically draining while pregnant.
“I had to let the promoters know,” Barbra told the press, “but why is everybody else so hipped on money? They call it 'the million dollar baby.' Is that important? What's a baby got to do with it. I'll tell you what's important. Having a healthy baby, that's important. For that matter, what's success? A million dollars doesn't automatically give you happiness. I used to live well on $20 a week.”
The interviewer found Barbra knitting for her baby. “In Funny Girl I'm onstage nearly all the time except for a couple of minutes in each act. As soon as I go off in the first act I grab the knitting and do a line. Then in the second act I knit another line. Knitting makes me relaxed, so keep asking.”
29-year-old actress Lisa Shane understudied Barbra Streisand for the London show. Shane was even announced in the papers as taking over the role when Streisand left the show.
However, by June 9th, it was announced Funny Girl would close on July 16th. Michael Craig, Kay Medford and Lee Allen all exercised a clause in their contracts that allowed them to leave the show at the same time as Streisand. Therefore, when Streisand left, Funny Girl closed in London.
Below: Some Lisa Shane newspaper clippings and an EP of songs she recorded and released from Funny Girl.
Michael Craig as Nick Arnstein
Michael Craig portrayed Nick Arnstein in the London version of Funny Girl. In his autobiography (The Smallest Giant) he wrote, “Barbra was phenomenal and could recognise a misplaced ‘ting’ on the triangle from the other side of Leicester Square. She was a wonderful performer and, even when she did her own little improvisational riffs, she was always in complete magisterial control.”
Craig also noted, “Barbra had a great success although some of the critics commented on how small her voice seemed in the theatre, compared with what they had heard on her recordings. She was the only one on stage who was mic'd—the rest of us had to make do with lung power and shotgun mikes directed at the stage from the spot rail ... I did have to be a bit careful in my more intimate moments with Barbra and make sure I didn't speak into her personal mike, which was hidden in her cleavage, but apart from that I started to really get the hang of it.”
Of his experience playing opposite Streisand in Funny Girl in 1966, Michael Craig summed it up by saying: “A funny peculiar time with a funny peculiar lady. I admired her talent enormously—still do—but back then her professionalism left a lot to be desired.”
The closing night party for Funny Girl was at a nightclub called Cockney Pride, Jermyn Street, London. The party lasted into the early hours of Sunday morning following her last performance of the four-month run in London. There was a large iced cake and buckets of champagne which Barbra dedicated to the cast. Actress Leslie Caron, as well as Anthony Newley and his wife, Joan Collins attended.
Streisand's last live performance of Funny Girl (ever!) was on Saturday, July 16, 1966.
Funny Girl's After-life
The stage show of Funny Girl has been resurrected in regional theater productions over the years. To date, there has never been a Broadway revival.
The show has been revised since 1966, however. Lyricist Bob Merrill contributed changes to the 1996 Broadway-bound revival starring pop star Debbie Gibson. “Before Jule [Styne] passed away, we rewrote two of the songs and added a completely new song to the score,” Merrill told the press. “I did a rewrite of the book. I maintained everything that was in the show but tried to strengthen the character development.”
For one night only (September 23, 2002) an array of singing actresses portrayed Fanny Brice at The Second Annual Benefit Concert for The Actors' Fund of America presented at Broadway's New Amsterdam Theater. Musical Director Seth Rudesky told the press, “You know, there was no matinée Fanny; Barbra did eight performances a week. That's why I think this is the best way to do it, with a bunch of Fannies.” Peter Gallagher portrayed Nick Arnstein for the concert; Kaye Ballard was Mrs. Brice; and John Scherer was Eddie Ryan. Here's a list of the songs and the actresses who sang them:
- "I'm the Greatest Star" (Sutton Foster)
- "Cornet Man" (Idina Menzel)
- "Nicky Arnstein #1" (Ricki Lake)
- "His Love Makes Me Beautiful" (Kristin Chenoweth)
- "I Want To Be Seen With You Tonight" (LaChanze)
- "People" (Julia Murney)
- "You Are Woman, I Am Man" (Ana Gasteyer)
- "Don't Rain On My Parade" (Lillias White)
- "Sadie, Sadie" (Jane Krakowski)
- "Rat Tat Tat Tat" (Bebe Neuwirth)
- "Who Are You Now?" (Judy Kuhn)
- "Funny Girl" (Andrea Martin)
- "The Music That Makes Me Dance" (Carolee Carmello)
In 2011 the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles announced it would remount Funny Girl. The plan was to transfer the show to Broadway in 2012. Lauren Ambrose was cast as Fanny Brice and Bobby Cannavale as Nick Arnstein. Bartlett Sher was to direct. The production never materialize, though. Bob Boyett, a producer of the revival, said in a statement: “We have made the extremely difficult decision today to postpone our production of ‘Funny Girl.’ Given the current economic climate, many Broadway producing investors have found it impossible to maintain their standard level of financial commitment.”
More Funny Girl revival news arrived in March 2014. Glee star Lea Michele announced in an interview that her boss Ryan Murphy bought the rights to stage Funny Girl.
Ryan Murphy elaborated: “I have the rights to it. It’s something that we’re talking about ... [Lea] and I have made no mistake of our mutual love for that property, so if it could come together at a time that she’d be willing to make that commitment to go back to Broadway – which I don’t know that she is right now – it would have to be the right director and the right leading man.”
A year later, however, Murphy's interest in the property seemed to have waned. “I feel like we did so many of those songs and so many of those scenes [on Glee] that in a weird way, I feel like we did it in some way,” he told Entertainment Weekly.
2015 London Revival
Michael Mayer was announced as director of a new revival of Funny Girl to open at London's Menier Chocolate Factory with previews from November 20, 2015, and a run until March 5, 2016. The Menier Chocolate Factory production sold out in 90 minutes—a box office record for them.
After the Menier run, the show transferred to the Savoy Theatre in London's West End, and began performances on April 9, 2016.
Olivier Award winner Sheridan Smith starred as Fanny Brice. The rest of the cast was: Darius Campbell (Nick), Valda Aviks (Mrs O'Malley), Natasha J Barnes (Emma/Mrs Meeker), Marilyn Cutts (Mrs Brice), Maurice Lane (Mr Keeney), Bruce Montague (Ziegfeld), Joel Montague (Eddie), and Gay Soper (Mrs Strakosh).
The most interesting aspect of this new production is that Harvey Fierstein (Torch Song Trilogy and Kinky Boots) was hired to rewrite the book of the show. “It was not going well on the road and they brought in lots of people to help. Basically they decided to build the second act around [Streisand] and gave up on the story-telling,” Fierstein explained to the Daily Mail. “It had stuff in it that wasn’t necessary any more for a modern audience.”
After excising 40 pages of Isobel Lennart's original script, Fierstein decided “There was a diamond in there and it needed to be cut out. It’s not that I’ve cut it to make it shorter — I’ve edited it to make it stronger.”
What will audiences see that is different in the new production? Nick's song “Sleep Now, Baby Bunting” has been reinserted. Fierstein also dropped two songs, moved around two songs, and added one more new one, from the Styne/Merrill trunk.
Harvey Fierstein told the Daily Mail the revised script will concentrate on “the really lovely story about a woman in show business who wants to have a personal life and the career. ... and that still resonates.”
The second act is greatly revised. After a quick reprise of "Don't Rain On My Parade" and a short scene (much like the film) between Nick and Fanny in Monte Carlo, they get married and "Sadie, Sadie" is sung by the cast. This differs greatly from Barbra's 1965 show. Her second act began with wedding bells and a long, talky scene between already married and expecting Nick and Fanny in their Long Island mansion, followed by "Sadie."
The 2015 show drops "Find Yourself A Man" (a redundant song) and moves the first act's "Who Taught Her Everything?" to replace it.
Fierstein has written a new scene about Nick's investments and Fanny feeling disappointed that he is leaving her alone with the new baby. Following, Nick sings the added song, "A Temporary Arrangement."
More 2015 second act changes: "Who Are You Now?" is performed as a duet, with Nick echoing Fanny's lines. The end of the song segues into a reprise of "People." (This is a really lovely change!)
Fierstein notches up the drama in the following scene when Nick yells violently at Fanny: “I don't need you or your money to make me look like a man!”
Then the show cuts to a syrupy Ziegfeld number "What Do Happy People Do?" to contrast the showbiz world with Fanny's collapsing personal life. (Streisand's show had a chorus dance number in this spot, without singing.)
Finally, the Menier Chocolate Factory's Funny Girl inserts the movie song, "Funny Girl" right before Fanny transitions into "Don't Rain On My Parade (reprise)" to end the show.
|Act I — 1965||Act I — 2015||Act II — 1965||Act II — 2015|
|"Overture" – Orchestra||"Overture" – Orchestra||"Entr'acte" – Orchestra||"Entr'acte" – Orchestra|
|"If a Girl Isn't Pretty" – Mrs. Strakosh, Mrs. Brice, Eddie Ryan and People||"If a Girl Isn't Pretty" – Mrs. Strakosh, Mrs. Brice, Eddie Ryan and People||"Sadie, Sadie" – Fanny Brice and Friends||"Sadie, Sadie" – Fanny Brice and Friends|
|"I'm the Greatest Star" – Fanny Brice||"I'm the Greatest Star" – Fanny Brice||"Find Yourself a Man" – Mrs. Strakosh, Mrs. Brice and Eddie Ryan||"Who Taught Her Everything?" – Mrs. Brice and Eddie Ryan|
|"Cornet Man" – Fanny Brice, Snub Taylor and Keeney Chorus||"Cornet Man" – Fanny Brice, Snub Taylor and Keeney Chorus||"A Temporary Arrangement" — Nick Arnstein|
|"Who Taught Her Everything?" – Mrs. Brice and Eddie Ryan||[moved to Act 2]||"Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat" – Ziegfeld Company and Fanny Brice||"Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat" – Ziegfeld Company and Fanny Brice|
|"His Love Makes Me Beautiful" – Ziegfeld Tenor, Ziegfeld Girls and Fanny Brice||"His Love Makes Me Beautiful" – Ziegfeld Tenor, Ziegfeld Girls and Fanny Brice||"Who Are You Now?" – Fanny Brice||"Who Are You Now?" – Fanny Brice|
|"I Want to Be Seen With You Tonight" – Nick Arnstein and Fanny Brice||"I Want to Be Seen With You Tonight" – Nick Arnstein and Fanny Brice||"What Do Happy People Do" — Ziegfeld Girls|
|"Henry Street" – Henry Street Neighbors||"Henry Street" – Henry Street Neighbors||"The Music That Makes Me Dance" – Fanny Brice||"The Music That Makes Me Dance" – Fanny Brice|
|"People" – Fanny Brice||"People" – Fanny Brice||"Funny Girl" – Fanny Brice|
|"You Are Woman, I Am Man" – Nick Arnstein and Fanny Brice||"You Are Woman, I Am Man" – Nick Arnstein and Fanny Brice||"Don't Rain on My Parade" (Reprise) – Fanny Brice||"Don't Rain on My Parade" (Reprise) – Fanny Brice|
|"Don't Rain on My Parade" – Fanny Brice||"Don't Rain on My Parade" – Fanny Brice|
Ultimately, Smith's star performance suffered when, for personal problems, she missed almost two months worth of shows, her understudy going on for her. The London show closed October 2016. A cast album with Smith's vocals was released, too.
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