LEA Michele made her much-anticipated film debut in Funny Girl last week. It would be an understatement to say that the former Glee star's hiring was not without controversy: even though Michele had been actively campaigning for the part of Fanny Brice in the revival for more than a decade, Booksmart star Beanie Feldstein was chosen in her place. Many Broadway insiders initially theorized that the casting selections were influenced by producers' reluctance to collaborate with Michele in the wake of 2020 allegations from her costars that she had participated in bullying and racist behavior on-set. At the time, Michele expressed regret, stating on Instagram, "I know I need to keep striving to better myself and take responsibility for my acts, so that I can be a real role model for my child and so that I can pass down my lessons and mistakes." When Feldstein finally made her debut earlier this year to almost entirely negative reviews, rumors that Michele was once again being considered for the role began to circulate. This rumor ultimately came true when Michele was revealed to take Feldstein's place (who pulled out of her contract early under vaguely mysterious circumstances) in July.
It was widely reported that videos of Michele singing "Don't Rain on my Parade" on opening night went viral. Michele's return to the stage as Fanny Brice was seen by many in the close-knit BroadwayTok community as nothing short of a glorious occasion. But Jonathan Lewis, nicknamed Sweaty Oracle, who has been outspoken about his dislike of Michele's casting, was less than impressed.
Lewis replies, "I just don't think she's that intriguing, save how cruel she is.
Sweaty Oracle is well-known for leaking "juicy theatre tea," as he advertises on the platform, and is one of the most obnoxious theatre gossips on TikTok. Although he first gained notoriety by (inaccurately) foreseeing the breakup of John Mulaney and Olivia Munn, he has subsequently been the first to report on stories regarding musical theatre, from casting news for Into the Woods to backstage drama for Funny Girl.
The cohosts of Don't Let This Flop, a podcast by Rolling Stone about online news and culture, Brittany Spanos and Ej Dickson, and Lewis discuss Broadway elitism, ensemble actors who are popular on TikTok, and who the real diva of the Funny Girl revival is on this week's episode of the show.
How did you come to resemble DeuxMoi on Broadway, then?
I've been gathering information on BroadwayWorld.com for maybe 15 years. The massive Patti Murin Exodus of 2018 then took place.
You'll have to describe what that is.
In Frozen, Patti Murin played an actress. She originally played Anna when Frozen arrived to Broadway, and she disliked anything that was said about her on Broadway World. And I found that strange, considering how mild I found everyone's criticism of her to be. There were many worse things that someone could be saying. As a result, they expelled about 20 of us from Broadway World who had been frequent users. And we said, "That's okay." We'll open a Discord server. And this Discord kind of evolved into this odd industry meeting place where we can all discuss what's happening. Since I don't come from a wealthy family, I found it a little offensive that all the theatre kids who knew this information were wealthy. South Carolina is where I am. I don't belong to the elite. "Well, I'm just going to start telling people," I said.
So where do you receive your advice and information?
Although a large portion of it originated in a Discord I'm in, which contains many people who work for various theatres, newspapers, and producing offices, a large portion of it now comes from the Instagram I created. Due to a production team leak, I believe we were the first to learn that Katrina Lenk would be playing Bobbie in the [now closed] Company revival. The same is true for Beanie, Funny Girl, and the new Sweeney Todd. But now that TikTok has kind of taken off, I feel like I have a name in practically every Broadway theatre who is dishing to me inside information about what's happening backstage.
While DeuxMoi is situated in New York and many gossip columnists are based in either New York or Los Angeles, you are based in South Carolina. Do you think that presents a tactical challenge?
In a strange manner, I believe it to be a tactical benefit as many who provide me with information consider me unassuming because I'm from South Carolina. Strangely enough, I believe that because I live in South Carolina and people believe that I can't cause as much harm, I receive more information.
Get to Funny Girl now. Why do you think this project has been so cursed, first of all?
because they did it without waiting for Lady Gaga to free up some time. That was the beginning of it. When they first approached Gaga for this project, they told her they couldn't afford to pay her enough to be a star. Look at the design of the set. They don't have nearly as much money as Gaga. Idina Menzel has been planning to perform it for a while. Articles were published. About it, she was tweeting. Then, something abruptly and drastically changed overnight. Then it changed to, "We're jogging with Beanie." I almost got the impression that was the point at which the show could not recover. I stand up for Beanie. I spotted Beanie. I didn't believe she deserved even a third of the abuse she received. A mistake in casting? Perhaps, but there aren't a tonne of threads about how Sutton Foster is miscast in The Music Man and her voice can't sing the piece exactly as it is written. Despite Beanie's best efforts, Barbara Streisand will always be associated with that part, whether you like it or not.
You need someone who can really manage that score no matter how you recontextualize the production, whether it's under [theatre directors] Daniel Fish, Sam Gold, or someone else who decided to deconstruct Funny Girl entirely. And I believe they shot themselves in the foot after [Beanie was cast]. A recording of Beanie's dress rehearsal was produced, and it was truly awful. She is being reserved for her initial preview because it is her dress rehearsal. Although it was unreasonable to judge, the idea spread. According to my sources, those seeds were planted when Lea entered a bar with [director] Michael Mayer after smelling blood in the water at the moment and said, "Look, if you need me, I'm here." As a result, the director's mind is already filled with rival Fannies. It just became a cluster fuck so rapidly as the performance was starting.
What did you think and how did you react when it was revealed that Lea would be taking over?
shivering Oracle: It had been an odd week. I relocated into a friend's basement following a split. The devil can't win that hard, so when someone texted me that evening, "Lea Michele is replacing Beanie," I assumed they were kind of joking. This isn't true, I tweeted on a private Twitter account that I have. However, I've heard Lea Michele will play Fanny. My initial reaction was total incredulity, so. The plot soon began to fall apart behind the scenes. Oh my God, she did it, I thought.
There are numerous reports about how quickly Lea's initial performances sold out. Do you believe this will have any effect, especially in light of the current buzz? not just on Broadway in general, but also on ticket sales for this particular production?
I believe that the production of Funny Girl is simply not that outstanding for such a bad show. There is a reason why it took 50 years to complete. It features four excellent tunes. Because it's a bad show, there's a reason you don't know the rest of the songs, any of the other characters, or anything else about it. In fact, Beanie sounded like a fucking rock concert during his first paid gigs. People were going insane. The performance had sold out. Everyone muttered, "It won't be an issue." The theatre is packed to the gills with Beanie fans. The August Wilson is likely open this spring, in my opinion. A show is already revolving around it. Therefore, I believe Funny Girl will be forgotten by January's holiday season.
What did you think of Michele's Broadway performance receiving instant praise on social media?
I mean, this is the same Broadway that declined to denounce [producer] Scott Rudin, who was charged with domestic violence in a Hollywood Reporter article published in 2021. Broadway has never called out its offenders, not even when those articles were published. Broadway doesn't confront its racist cast members. Members of Broadway who commit heinous sexual assaults, often against youngsters, are not publicly criticised. These are all rather open and public stories. There are numerous them. Broadway offers those people shelter and protection. Everyone in the Broadway and television community is aware of the identity of the youngster who was raped by James Barbour, who played the Phantom in Phantom of the Opera, yet they still allowed him to perform on Broadway. [In 2008, Barbour admitted having sex with a 15-year-old and entered a plea of guilty to two counts of endangering the welfare of a child.] I don't believe Broadway gives a damn about abusers. Broadway is primarily concerned with how it may exploit those abusers for financial gain. And that's unfortunate because, at least in recent years, the film business has supposed to care and has appeared to be taking action. Nothing but sweeping these stories under the rug has been done on Broadway.
But why do you think that is unique to Broadway?
Broadway is a close-knit group, so when you enter, I believe they kind of seal the gates around themselves because of this. People in the film industry are merely seeking to land their next project and are attempting to wriggle their way through politics. Broadway has a way of coming together. I'm not sure why Broadway bands together in that fashion, but I believe a major factor is that they resemble a dysfunctional, inbred, Southern family that pulls out shotguns whenever someone pulls up the driveway.
What do you think will happen on Broadway in the upcoming year?
I think it's been in a strange place, especially with COVID, but it also appears like younger audiences aren't interested and that it's difficult for people to attend because of the cost of the tickets. In addition, a number of unsuccessful movies have had revivals and adaptations during the past few years. One of the things I really, really, really hope is that the Broadway bubble is breaking and that it's popping because there aren't a thousand people per theatre every night who have $200 or $100 to sit and watch a performance. However, I feel like we're still a long way off from that. These numbers are simply less common than they once were. I just giggled to myself as I looked at the Sweeney Todd presale. Who was spending $400 on these, in my opinion? I mean, I suppose if I had the money, I would be the one to do it, but an increasing number of people are like me and no longer have the money. I believe Broadway still has about three more seasons to figure things out. Once the bubble bursts, Broadway will briefly resemble Broadway in the mid-1990s, with many theatres empty and many performances taking place off-Broadway since it will become unaffordable to continue producing productions. Broadway appeases those who aren't interested, but they'll put on a Jeremy O. Harris concert — they'll do it with all these kinds of up and coming artists, especially people of colour — and it feels like a way for them to brag while doing the absolute minimum. According to me, Broadway needs to undergo a total revolution that is distinct from the upper middle class, white folks who currently control it. And until that occurs, Broadway will keep raising fees without understanding why fewer people are attending.