How Lea Michele’s ‘Funny Girl’ Debut Parallels Her Final ‘Glee’ Scene With Cory Monteith

Lea Michele currently stars as Funny Girl Fanny Brice on Broadway. The former Glee star received six standing ovations for her first performance in the role on Sept. 6. However, as she took her final bows, Twitter was abuzz. Fans pointed out several critical parallels between Michele’s debut in the role and her final Glee scenes with Cory Monteith. Here’s a deep dive into how the actor prepared herself for this critical career moment and how her former love played a part.

Lea Michele and Cory Monteith photographed together in 2011.
Lea Michele and Cory Monteith | Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

Why is Lea Michele’s role as ‘Funny Girl’s’ Fanny Brice so crucial to ‘Glee’ fans?

Michele played Rachel Berry on the hit Fox series for six seasons. Throughout the series run, her character was deeply in love with quarterback turned glee club superstar Finn Hudson. Rachel’s passion for Finn was eclipsed by her love for Barbra Streisand and her quest to play Funny Girl, Fanny Brice.

Therefore, when Rachel graduated from William McKinley High School, she headed to New York. The character had had a chance to audition for Broadway producers and her dream role. She leaned on Finn for guidance in a season 4 episode titled “Sweet Dreams.”

In the episode, Michele performs Funny Girl‘s “I’m The Greatest Star” and “Who Are You Now?”

Glee covered so many songs from Funny Girl that producer Ryan Murphy’s thoughts for a Michele-led revival of the musical were initially abandoned because he felt they had already done the work on the series. Vulture reported Glee featured 10 songs from the musical throughout the show’s six-season run.

Lea Michele’s ‘Funny Girl’ debut paralleled her final ‘Glee’ scenes with Cory Monteith

Lea Michele in Glee episode titled "Opening Night."
Lea Michele | Fox/YouTube

“Sweet Dreams” was the last Glee episode Monteith filmed before his death. Finn helped Rachel pick her Funny Girl audition song in his final scene. He tells Rachel to sing something meaningful. She chooses Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” dedicating the song to her friends, impressing the producers, and winning the role.

In the following “Opening Night” episode, Rachel leaves an open seat for Finn during her Broadway debut. Monteith does not appear in the episode.

Personally, Michele and Monteith were reportedly on a fast track to marriage, as reported in 2013 by People Magazine. Monteith entered a rehab facility for substance addiction a week after filming “Sweet Dreams” and died less than four months later on July 13, 2013.

Ironically, Playbill announced Michele would take over the lead in Funny Girl on July 11, 2022, almost nine years after Monteith’s death.

Lea Michele’s career led to this Broadway debut

Michele began her Broadway career in the play Les Miserables at nine years old. She followed up with roles in Ragtime, Fiddler on the Roof, and Wendela in Spring Awakening.

During Glee‘s season one’s midseason finale, Rachel saves the glee club from a Regionals defeat with her solo performance of Funny Girl‘s “Don’t Rain on My Parade.” Michele reprised the performance at the 2010 Tony Awards, setting in motion years of preparation for the role of Fanny Brice.

In 2014, Michele told Broadway World that she and Murphy were on a fast track to getting a revival of Funny Girl ready for the stage. “We are talking about it now. We have the rights. And right now, we are talking to some potential directors, and we have someone amazing in mind. When the time is right, and I have had the chance to get some good rest after Glee, and I feel ready to do it, we will definitely do it.”

However, in 2017, Michele told Andy Cohen she was ready for the revival to happen. However, during that time, Murphy’s rights to the show lapsed.

A revival of the musical was announced in Aug. 2021, with Beanie Feldstein in the role of Fanny Brice. Funny Girl opened in April 2022. However, months later, Variety tweeted that Feldstein was leaving the show, and her final performance was July 31, three months after taking on the role. Subsequently, Feldstein’s understudy, Julie Benko, lead the show until Michele’s debut.

Twitter users linked Monteith and Michele during her ‘Funny Girl’ opening night

Twitter was ablaze with commentary linking Monteith and Michele on the eve of her Funny Girl opening night. However, the parallels between their on and off-camera relationships were not lost on Glee fans.

“I hope Lea Michele bought a ticket to reserve for Cory for her opening night of Funny Girl,” wrote one follower.

“I know the internet says I’m not supposed to be happy about Lea Michele in Funny Girl. But all I can think of is how proud Cory would be, and I’m very emotional,” penned a second fan.

“When Lea Michele sings “Who Are You Now” from Funny Girl, my heart breaks because it’s Cory,” tweeted a third fan.

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