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Lauren Ambrose & Bartlett Sher Talk FUNNY GIRL Casting

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It's just been announced that Lauren Ambrose will star as Fanny Brice in FUNNY GIRL, in the first Broadway production of the musical since it originally opened in 1964. FUNNY GIRL, which features music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Bob Merrill and book by Isobel Lennart, will be directed by Tony Award-winner Bartlett Sher.

FUNNY GIRL will play at Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles from January 15 through February 26, 2012 prior to opening in spring 2012 on Broadway.

"It is so terrific that Los Angeles audiences will have the first opportunity to see this new production of FUNNY GIRL," said Michael Ritchie, Artistic Director of Center Theatre Group, "and to see Lauren perform the role of Fanny Brice. She is an amazing talent. We are all in for a treat."

"Let's face it, there is obviously more than a lot to live up to playing Fanny Brice, but I am humbled and thrilled by the opportunity to be a part of this revival," said Lauren Ambrose. "The character is complex, the music beautiful and challenging. I can't wait to get into that rehearsal room with the team Bart is assembling - wish we could start tomorrow!"

"It's important that people not see this casting process as trying to find the next Barbra Streisand. She is one of a kind," commented director Bartlett Sher. "Instead, I really needed someone with whom I could explore the original musical and come to terms with Fanny Brice for a new era. I understand how difficult this part is to fill as well as the characteristics required to explore this in a new way. The world of burlesque, vaudeville and the Follies is a unique American invention and how Fanny Brice came up in that world is a wonderful story, but this show is also about the sacrifices of being an artist and the high cost that women in particular suffer when they find great success and the difficult choices that come with accomplishment. Lauren Ambrose has enormous accomplishments as an actor, especially a truthfulness in her acting that leads to great comedy, as well as a wonderful, rich voIce That is fully trained and can genuinely soar. For me the key to any revival is finding the balance between respecting and unearthing all the deepest intentions of the original, and yet pushing the work ahead to see it in a new way. I know with Lauren that we can do that. We couldn't be more thrilled to get to work and make something special and something new."

"It's been close to 50 years since FUNNY GIRL has been on Broadway," said producer Bob Boyett. "Part of the challenge has always been in finding a performer who can rise to the challenges that this part presents. Those who saw Lauren Ambrose's remarkable and acclaimed performances in Romeo & Juliet, Awake and Sing! or her Emmy-nominated role in "Six Feet Under," already know her incredible range as an actress. What many do not know about Lauren is that she was a classically trained opera singer before her foray into acting."

Lauren Ambrose received two Emmy Award nominations and two SAG Awards for her role as Claire Fisher in the critically acclaimed television drama, "Six Feet Under". She has previously appeared on Broadway in Awake and Sing! and Exit the King and starred in the Shakespeare in the Park productions of Romeo & Juliet and Hamlet and in Buried Child at The National Theatre in London. Her film roles include In & Out, Can't Hardly Wait, Psycho Beach Party, Swimming, Admissions, Diggers, Starting Out in the Evening, Cold Souls, A Dog Year, The Other Woman, Where the Wild Things Are and the upcoming films, Wanderlust, Think of Me and Grassroots. Her television credits include "Torchwood," "Party of Five," "Loving Leah," "The Return of Jezebel James," "Saving Graces," and "Law & Order."

FUNNY GIRL is the road-to-stardom story of legendary entertainer Fanny Brice, from her start in a Brooklyn music hall to her meteoric rise as a headliner in the Ziegfeld Follies. While her career soars, she falls in love with charming gambler Nick Arnstein, just as his own lucky streak is running out. FUNNY GIRL is an irresistible backstage drama, a heartbreaking romance and a classic musical comedy filled with unforgettable songs by the team of Jule Styne and Bob Merrill including "Don't Rain on My Parade," "I'm the Greatest Star," "The Music That Makes Me Dance," and the iconic hit "People."

FUNNY GIRL originally opened on Broadway on March 26, 1964 at the Winter Garden Theatre and played for 1,348 performances. FUNNY GIRL was a hit on national tour and in London and was adapted to the screen for the popular 1968 movie version, but has not played Broadway since the original production closed in 1967.

For FUNNY GIRL, Bartlett Sher reunites the design team of his acclaimed Tony Award-winning production of South Pacific: scenic design by Michael Yeargan, costume design by Catherine Zuber, lighting design by Donald Holder and sound design by Scott Lehrer. Music director is Kimberly Grigsby. Choreographer is Christopher Gattelli.

FUNNY GIRL will be produced in Los Angeles at the Ahmanson Theatre by Center Theatre Group, with special permission from Bob Boyett, Sonia Friedman Productions, Jean Doumanian, Stacey Mindich and Tim Levy.

BIOGRAPHIES

Lauren Ambrose (Fanny Brice) received two Emmy Award nominations and two SAG Awards for her role as Claire Fisher in the critically acclaimed television drama, "Six Feet Under". She has previously appeared on Broadway in Awake and Sing! and Exit the King and starred in the Shakespeare in the Park productions of Romeo & Juliet and Hamlet and in Buried Child at The National Theatre in London. Her film roles include In & Out, Can't Hardly Wait, Psycho Beach Party, Swimming, Admissions, Diggers, Starting Out in the Evening, Cold Souls, A Dog Year, The Other Woman, Where the Wild Things Are and the upcoming films, Wanderlust, Think of Me and Grassroots. Her television credits include "Torchwood," "Party of Five," "Loving Leah," "The Return of Jezebel James," "Saving Graces," and "Law & Order."

Jule Styne (1905-1994) (Music) made Broadway sing for 50 years as the composer of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes; Peter Pan; Bells Are Ringing; Funny Girl; Hallelujah, Baby!; and Gypsy. He developed his feel for popular music working with the jazz bands of 1920's Chicago and as vocal coach to such Hollywood stars as Shirley Temple and Alice Faye. With lyricist Sammy Cahn, he created a string of hit songs including "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" and the Oscar-winning "Three Coins in the Fountain." His theatre collaborations with Betty Comden and Adolph Green, Stephen Sondheim, Bob Merrill, Leo Robin and E.Y. Harburg resulted in such Broadway showstoppers as "The Party's Over," "Everything's Coming Up Roses," "People" and "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend." Jule Styne was elected to the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1972, the Theatre Hall of Fame in 1981 and became a Kennedy Center Honoree in 1990.

Bob Merrill (1921-1998) (Lyrics) wrote music and lyrics for the Broadway musicals New Girl in Town, Take Me Along, Carnival, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Henry, Sweet Henry, and lyrics for Funny Girl, Prettybelle and Sugar. Merrill's screenwriting credits include Mahogany, W.C. Fields and Me and the television movies "Portrait of a Showgirl" and "The Animated Adventures of Tom Sawyer". Among Merrill's television credits were two holiday specials, the classic "Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol" and "The Dangerous Christmas of Red Riding Hood," written specifically for Liza Minnelli. Merrill began his songwriting career writing tunes for Dorothy Shay. One of his first major hits was the 1950 novelty song "If I Knew You Were Comin' I'd've Baked a Cake". He also co-wrote the 1950 Moon Mullican country song "You Don't Have To Be a Baby To Cry". His three most famous songs were "(How Much Is) That Doggie in the Window?", a hit for Patti Page, "Mambo Italiano" recorded by Rosemary Clooney, and "The Kid's Last Fight" recorded by Frankie Laine.

Isobel Lennart (1915-1971) (Book) wrote the original book for Funny Girl and also the screenplay for the 1968 screen version, for which she received the Screen Writer's Annual Award. Born and raised in the heart of Brooklyn, she had a particular affinity to the subject matter. Her other film credits include The Sundowners (Limelight Award, Academy nomination), Love Me or Leave Me (Academy nomination), The Affairs of Martha, A Stranger in Town, Anchors Aweigh, A Life of Her Own, Merry Andrew, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, Please Don't Eat the Daisies, Two for the Seesaw, Latin Lovers, Lost Angel and It Happened in Brooklyn. In 1966, she received the Laurel Award for Achievement in screenwriting.

Bartlett Sher (Director) LCT: Resident director; Joe Turner's Come and Gone (Tony nomination), South Pacific (Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards), Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Awake and Sing! (Tony nomination), The Light in the Piazza (Tony nomination). Artistic director of Seattle's Intiman Theatre (2000-2010), credits there include the world premieres of Prayer for My Enemy and Singing Forest by Craig Lucas (both also Long Wharf Theatre) and Nickel and Dimed; plays by Chekhov, Wilder, Shakespeare, Goldoni and Tony Kushner. Opera: The Barber of Seville, The Tales of Hoffman, Le Comte Ory (Metropolitan Opera), Roméo et Juliette (Salzburg Festival), Mourning Becomes Electra (Seattle Opera and New York City Opera). New York: Prayer for My Enemy (Playwrights); Cymbeline (2001 Callaway Award for Best Director; first American Shakespeare at the Royal Shakespeare Company), Waste (2000 Best Play Obie), Don Juan (all TFANA). He is a member of the TCG board.

Photo (Lauren Ambrose by Sam Handel)

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