Funny Girl the Broadway musical opened on March 26, 1964 and is set in and around New York City just prior to and following World War I. The musical is a semi-biographical plot based on the life and career of Broadway, film star and comedian Fanny Brice and her stormy relationship with Nick Arnstein. The musical was produced by Ray Stark, Brice’s son-in-law, who was married to her daughter Frances. Barbra Streisand was the star of the musical and the production was nominated for eight Tony Awards but with tough competition from Hello, Dolly!, it failed to win in any categories. Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim were hired as the songwriters, Jerome Robbins as director, Bob Merrill as lyricist, and Carol Haney as choreographer. Stark has dreamt of producing a musical of his mother-in-law ever since she died in 1951 and that dream finally came true when he found help from Isobel Lennart to do the books. David Merrick was producing with Stark originally but after a falling out with Stark, Merrick sold his share back to Stark leaving Stark as the sole producer. Mary Martin was the original choice to play Brice but it was decided that someone with a Jewish background was needed. After a pain staking process of trying to find the right person to play the leading role Barbra Streisand ended up as their final decision to play the leading role of Fanny Brice. “Barbra Streisand became a Hollywood star after starring in Funny Girl. She eloquently and memorably recalled the career of Fanny Brice, a great Jewish comedienne and stage personality who starred for years in the Ziegfeld Follies.” (Williams 117) Robbins quit the directing job of the production and Bob Fosse was filled in for the job but eventually also left the job. Sidney Lumet was considered but he refused the job because of the messy script and finally Garson Kanin became the director of Funny Girl. Although, Kanin eventually left the production after the show previewed in Philadelphia and Robbins was rehired with the credit of “Production Supervised By…”. Stark had to postpone the Broadway opening five times in order to give Robbins time to fix the show.
Ray Stark was born on October 3, 1915 in Chicago, IL and died on January 17, 2004 at the age of 88 in West Hollywood, CA. He was mainly an American film producer. He believed that it would be best to produce a musical on his mother-in-law’s life first before making a film. Stark seemed to many as a powerful man who should not be stepped on. He was good friends with David Begelman, President of Columbia Pictures and was said that Stark was the power behind Columbia Pictures. Stark had blacklisted actor Cliff Robertson for whistle blowing on Begelman for embezzlement. It has also been said that Stark forced Streisand to sign a four-picture deal causing much bitterness between the two. Stark has a list of films that he produced but the ones he was most known for are Funny Girl (movie), The Way We Were, Annie, and Steel Magnolias.
Jule Styne, full name Julius Kerwin Stein was born on December 31, 1905 in London, England and died on September 20, 1994 at the age of 88 in New York City, NY. Styne along with Stephen Sondheim composed the songs for Funny Girl. Styne arrived in America with his family at the age of 8. In 1934 he moved to New York and by 1943 he had teamed up with Sammy Cahn. Frank Sinatra had insisted they write the songs for Anchors a Weigh. Styne and Cahn had their first Broadway hit with High Button Shoes with hit songs like Papa, Won’t You Dance with Me” and “I Still Get Jealous”. Styne also took part in productions such as 1954 Peter Pan, 1959 Gypsy, 1960 Do Re Mi, 1964 Funny Girl, etc. “Styne wrote for some of Broadway’s most impressive stars, and his songs simultaneously exude theatrical opulence and dramatic depth.” (Everett 333) Sondheim was born on March 22, 1930 in New York City, NY and is a composer/lyricist for stage and film. He has won a record of seven...
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