Lifted by Lea Michele, ‘Funny Girl’ Recoups on Broadway

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The Broadway revival of “Funny Girl” starring Lea Michele is now officially a hit: It has recouped its capitalization costs, completing a remarkable box office turnaround of the sort rarely seen in the commercial theater.

The show’s lead producers, Sonia Friedman, Scott Landis and David Babani, announced on Monday that the production had made back the $16.5 million it cost to mount. That milestone not only gives the production bragging rights, but also means that “Funny Girl” can generate a profit during the last few weeks of its run, which ends on Sept. 3.

Only a handful of Broadway productions have announced the recoupment of their capitalization costs since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, as higher expenses and smaller audiences have made the always challenging economics of Broadway even more difficult.

“Funny Girl,” though, is an especially unusual case: The production — the first revival of a show that had long seemed impossible to revive because of the long shadow of its original star, Barbra Streisand — opened at the August Wilson Theater in April 2022 with Beanie Feldstein in the title role. Critics were underwhelmed; the show won no Tony Awards (it was only nominated for one); and by summer its sales had drooped.

The producers replaced Feldstein with Michele, generating an avalanche of press coverage (Michele was a star of “Glee,” and her character had starred in a fictional revival of “Funny Girl”) and rapturous reviews (in The Los Angeles Times, Charles McNulty called Michele’s performance “one of the top five musical theater performances I’ve seen in my lifetime”). Ticket sales soared (as did ticket prices — the top price at the box office rose to $599 last Christmas), and over time the production made enough money to recover its development costs. Michele, whose reputation had been tarnished by allegations that she had behaved poorly to co-workers on “Glee,” worked tirelessly to transform the way people saw both her and “Funny Girl,” and became the toast of the town.

Among the other Broadway shows that have opened since the pandemic shutdown and announced recoupment are “Six,” a pop musical about the wives of King Henry VIII; “MJ,” the Michael Jackson biomusical; and “Prima Facie,” a one-woman play about sexual assault that starred Jodie Comer. Also, a handful of shows that opened before the pandemic have recouped since theaters reopened, including “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” and “Moulin Rouge!” Not all shows announce recoupment, and it is likely that a few other shows have quietly done so in recent months.

A “Funny Girl” tour is scheduled to start next month in Providence, R.I., starring Katerina McCrimmon.

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