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Lea Michele, Beanie Feldstein and the 'Funny Girl' casting drama, explained

Michele was announced as Feldstein's successor in the Broadway show. For many fans, this is a moment years in the making.

Life's candy and the sun's a ball of butter! It's official: Lea Michele was announced to replace Beanie Feldstein in the Broadway production of "Funny Girl," with performances starting Sept. 6, 2022.

Michele will play Fanny Brice, the character made famous by Barbra Streisand in the 1968 film adaptation of the 1964 Broadway musical.

Here's what you need to know about the change-up — and why Broadway casting news lit the internet up, even before Michele was revealed to be the successor. As one Twitter user predicted, "If it's Lea Michele the internet is going to go crazy."

Beanie Feldstein announced her early departure from 'Funny Girl' in July

The 29-year-old actor made her "Funny Girl" debut in April 24, and was expected to stay through 2022. In June, her departure date — along with co-star Jane Lynch's — was moved to September.

Then, that changed again in July, when Feldstein announced she was leaving later that month.

“Playing Fanny Brice on Broadway has been a lifelong dream of mine, and doing so for the last few months has been a great joy and true honor,” the 29-year-old actor wrote on Instagram.

“Once the production decided to take the show in a different direction, I made the extremely difficult decision to step away sooner than anticipated," she continued.

The change may stem from the production's lackluster reviews, with writers pointing at Feldstein's voice. Neither Feldstein nor Lynch received Tony nominations for the 2021-2022 season.

Fans of Feldstein fiercely defended these critiques, especially those leveled against her voice (Jesse Green of the New York Times wrote, "Her voice, though solid and sweet and clear, is not well suited to the music.").

"People are holding [Beanie Feldstein] to a standard they do not hold other celebrities to who are stunt cast in Broadway musicals," one TikTok user said.

Lea Michele's 'Glee' character was a huge fan of 'Funny Girl,' as is Michele

For "Glee" fans, this casting announcement comes as a true full-circle moment. The Ryan Murphy series, which ran for six seasons from 2009 to 2015 on Fox, starred Michele as Rachel Berry, a talented (albeit slightly annoying) student at the fictional McKinley High School and a member of "The New Directions," McKinley's glee club.

Rachel Berry had one dream: to be on Broadway. More specifically, to play Fanny Brice in "Funny Girl" on Broadway. In pursuit of those dreams, Rachel sang "Funny Girl" songs multiple times.

Rachel Berry got her wish on the show — and now, that same wish is being granted to Lea Michele in real life.

Michele is a vocal fan of 'Funny Girl' and Barbra Streisand

To make matters more meta, Michele — who rose to fame in the Broadway show "Spring Awakening — has been transparent about her admiration of Streisand, who starred in the "Funny Girl" movie.

Michele sang "My Man," one of the show-stopping ballads she will eventually perform every night in "Funny Girl" as Fanny, at the Music Cares gala in 2011 — right in front of Streisand. In her memoir, per Parade, Michele called "My Man" her "favorite song in the entire world."

According to Billboard, she told Jimmy Fallon, host of "The Tonight Show" on NBC, that she had to look at Barbra Streisand's dog while she was singing to avoid making direct eye contact with Streisand.

After the performance, Michele said that Streisand spoke to her and said she "was great." Michele concluded, “And now I’m dead. And I died there that night, and everything has been a dream ever since.”

She was linked to a Broadway production since 2015

In 2015, "Glee" creator Ryan Murphy acquired the rights to "Funny Girl" on Broadway, per BroadwayWorld. Michele was long rumored to be a frontrunner for the part.

Murphy, at EW Fest in 2015, indicated that a "Funny Girl" musical wouldn't happen any time soon. "We had talked about it for sure,” Murphy said, according to EW. “But then I feel like we [did] so many of those songs and so many of those scenes [on 'Glee'] that in a weird way, I feel like we did it in some way.” 

On "Watch What Happens Live" in 2017, Michele told Andy Cohen that a collaboration between her and Murphy might be possible.

“I just talked to Ryan Murphy the other night. I did a concert in Central Park ... I did like nine 'Funny Girl' songs and turned to Ryan and I was like, ‘Okay, I’m ready to do it. It’s a lot of work and it would be an honor to do it," she said, naming "Funny Girl" as the musical she would most like to do on Broadway.

When Feldstein was cast, Michele's name was trending

When news of Feldstein's casting in the role of Fanny Brice released, the long-rumored frontrunner's name started trending on Twitter, with fans reacting to the news (and imagining Michele's reaction).

Speaking on Andy Cohen's radio show, Feldstein explained that she was confused by the hubbub. “I didn’t know that any of this was happening by the way. And all of a sudden people started explaining it to me, and I was like: wait, what’s happening?” Feldstein told Cohen.

Michele showed her support on Instagram. "Yes! YOU are the greatest star!” Michele wrote. “This is going to be epic!!”

Reactions to Michele's casting encapsulated years of drama

Given all these years of speculation, Michele's casting lit up the internet, with people trying to figure out what happened behind the scenes. Some Twitter users joked about trying to explain Michele's "13-year-long mission" to star in "Funny Girl" to people not in the know.

One Twitter poked fun at the years-long, intricate nature of the casting news, saying it might one day inspire a question on an AP exam.

Some "Glee" fans spotted the fact that Jane Lynch — who also starred on "Glee" — would be leaving the show as Michele was entering.

Other reactions — often featuring "Glee" images — pointed to Michele's rumored on-set reputation. Michele was called out by former "Glee" co-star Samantha Marie Ware in 2020 for making her life “a living hell” on the set. Michele apologized last year in response to Ware’s comments, writing on Instagram that she “clearly acted in ways which hurt other people.”

Many memes pointed at a persistent conspiracy theory

Since 2018, an absurd rumor about Michele has also been circulating the internet, thanks to a 40-minute-long video from "One More Thing" podcast hosts Jaye Hunt and Robert Ackerman theorizing the actor is illiterate.

The video — which has since been taken down, but is summarized by @kelseylikesthings on TikTok — said that since Michele spent much of her childhood on a Broadway stage, she didn't have time to get a full education as most kids would. Therefore, she has someone who helps her read her lines, help her memorize teleprompter scripts and so on.

After Michele was cast, people joked about this theory.

In 2018, Michele shut down the theory in a now-deleted tweet responding to a fan, per W Magazine: “Loved READING this tweet and wanted to WRITE you back ... literally laughing out loud at all this.”

Michele has yet to issue a statement about her casting.