Lauren Ambrose is 'Funny Girl' at the Ahmanson Theatre
The upcoming revival of "Funny Girl" at the Ahmanson Theatre has found its Fanny Brice. Actress Lauren Ambrose will play the iconic showbiz climber when the Broadway-bound production of the musical opens in L.A. on Feb. 1.
"Funny Girl," which features a score by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill, will be directed Bartlett Sher, who staged the acclaimed 2008 Broadway revival of "South Pacific."
Center Theatre Group said that "Funny Girl" is expected to transfer to Broadway in the spring of 2012. The production would be the first Broadway revival of the musical in almost 45 years.
The original New York production of "Funny Girl" opened in 1964 and starred a 21-year-old Barbra Streisand.
Ambrose, 33, has acted in numerous TV and theater productions but has never carried a big musical production. The actress played Claire Fisher in the HBO series "Six Feet Under." Her theater credits include the plays "Exit the King" and "Awake and Sing!" -- both on Broadway -- as well as "Romeo and Juliet" in 2007 for the Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park.
The actress studied voice in college and sings with the band called Lauren Ambrose and the Leisure Class, which performs jazz and other genres of music.
Sher previously directed Ambrose in the 2006 Broadway revival of "Awake and Sing!" The director said that Fanny Brice was the hardest part he's ever tried to cast.
"It was never a process of finding the next Barbra," the director said on the phone from London. "No one will be able to replace Barbra."
The director said that he is looking at music from "Funny Girl" that was cut from previous productions. "Everyone knows that the first act is great and that the second act is a little troubled, so I'm putting some work into that," he said. Sher added that he will explore the memory motifs of the musical as well as "what it takes for a woman to have a life and be a great artist."
No casting information has been released for the other roles.
Earlier this year, CTG launched an open online audition for "Funny Girl" in which actresses were encouraged to submit videos of themselves. The company said that it received 308 auditions from four different continents and eight different countries.
In recent months, there had been rumors that "Glee" star Lea Michele was being considered for the role of Fanny Brice.
"Funny Girl" is set to begin previews on Jan. 15. The production is scheduled to run through Feb. 26.
-- David Ng
[Updated Aug. 3, 1;30 p.m.: An earlier version of this story miscalculated how many years it had been since "Funny Girl" debuted.]
Photo: Lauren Ambrose. Credit: Bebeto Matthews / Associated Press