Lea Michele Addresses ‘Funny Girl’ Casting Controversy and Allegations of Bullying on ‘Glee’ Set

Michele replaces Beanie Feldstein in the lead role (created by Barbra Streisand in the Tony-nominated and Oscar-winning turns). In a new interview with The New York Times, she nodded to the controversy around her casting and Feldstein’s abrupt exit from the show.

“Everyone here has been through a lot, and I just have to come prepared, do a good job, and respect that this is their space,” she told The Times ahead of her first performance.

Michele’s road to ‘Funny Girl’ has been a long and winding one: According to the New York Times, she discovered the musical as a teenager while performing in the award-winning musical ‘Spring Awakening’. Tony. Michele said she fell in love and soon after she was cast as the lead in Ryan Murphy’s TV comedy “Glee.” Her character, the talented but grating Rachel Berry, shared Michele’s real-life obsession with the musical starring Streisand.

After years of performing “Funny Girl” songs on “Glee” — Rachel even stars in her revival on the show — and various attempts to bring the musical to Broadway, director Michael Mayer told The Times that Michele was considered for the upcoming role in the new production, but felt she might not be ready. (Michele gave birth to her son in 2020 while casting for the musical.) Michele said she told Mayer, after learning about Feldstein’s casting, that she would be “honoured” to take on the role. if Feldstein’s race ended.

And Feldstein’s stint on “Funny Girl” ended — months earlier than she originally announced. The highly anticipated production received mostly negative reviews when it opened in April, and most of them were aimed at Feldstein’s vocal abilities. In July, Feldstein announced that she would be leaving the musical at the end of the month instead of September. The next day, the “Funny Girl” team announced Michele’s casting.

Hiring Michele as a replacement for Feldstein proved to be a controversial decision. Many theater fans remembered “Glee” actress Samantha Marie Ware’s claims in 2020, when she accused Michele of fostering a toxic environment on set and said Michele exposed her to ” traumatic microaggressions”. When Michele was cast, Ware commented, “Yes, I care. Yes, I’m (sic) affected… Yes, I’ve been abused. Yes, my dreams have been tainted. Yes, Broadway stands for the whiteness.”

Michele declined to respond to Ware’s claims to The Times, but said her work ethic and “the pressure of perfectionism left her with a lot of blind spots.”

As for the joke that Michele is illiterate, which circulates online whenever Michele makes the news, she suggested that the joke was made because of her gender.

“I was going to ‘Glee’ every day, I knew my lines every day,” she told The Times. “And then there’s a rumor online that I can’t read or write? It’s sad. I really do. I often think that if I were a man, a lot of things wouldn’t be the same. case.”

Michele’s first show as Fanny is on September 6. Feldstein’s replacement, Julie Benko – who took over the role in August, will replace Michele once a week for the remainder of Michele’s run.