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: