“Funny Girl” revival gets its Fanny Brice – and it’s not who you think it is

If you’ve watched Glee much, you know that Lea Michele seems out to prove that her voice is up to covering Barbra Streisand songs.

No surprise, then, that Michele’s name has come up for taking on Streisand’s incomparable role of Fanny Brice in the upcoming revival of Funny Girl.

Personally, the thought of anyone at all stepping into that role is unthinkable to me. Barbra is, well, Barbra.

But the show will go on despite my opinion and Entertainment Weekly reports that the part has been filled by a surprise contender: Lauren Ambrose.

Most of us know Ambrose from Six Feet Under, in which she played wonderfully sardonic teenager Clair Fisher. But if you watch Torchwood: Miracle Day, you’ve seen Ambrose as a grownup — and she is, again, fabulous. And gorgeous.

What I didn’t realize is that Ambrose also is a trained opera singer. She worked with Bartlett Sher, director of the Funny Girl revival, when she made her Broadway debut in Clifford Odet‘s Awake and Sing! She also fronts a band called Lauren Ambrose and the Leisure Class.

Here’s a video from the band’s Facebook page, featuring Ambrose singing “My Man.”

Ambrose released a statement today. “Let’s face it, there is obviously more than a lot to live up to playing Fanny Brice, but I am humbled and thrilled by the opportunity to be a part of this revival,” she said. “The character is complex, the music beautiful and challenging. I can’t wait to get into that rehearsal room with the team [director] Bart [Sher] is assembling — wish we could start tomorrow!”

While I certainly would never dis Lea Michele — especially in this crowd — I think Ambrose will kick some Nicky Arnstein ass in Funny Girl. Michele has certainly made a point of bringing Barbra’s classics to a younger audience, but she tends to stay very close to Streisand’s interpretation when she performs the songs — almost to the point of impersonation. If a singer/actress other than Barbra deigns to take on Fanny Brice, I’d much prefer to see an entirely new version — which we’ll get from Ambrose. And I’d much prefer to see Michele in a musical that can become her own signature role.

Funny Girl opens its pre-Broadway run January 15, 2012, in Los Angeles and will move to New York in the spring.

What do you think? Are you disappointed that Lea Michele may be out of the running for Funny Girl? What do you think of Lauren Ambrose as Fanny Brice?