Two very different types of scandals have hit Broadway in recent days involving the musicals “Funny Girl” and “Paradise Square” (which played its last performance on Sunday).
The “Funny Girl” scandal is an old-school behind-the-scenes drama and second-hand gossip that has received unusually heavy media attention.
I admit it: the situation has been strangely intriguing and captivating. How exactly did Beanie Feldstein (who was perfectly fine in a small comedic role in the revival of “Hello, Dolly!”) in 2016 land the role of Fanny Brice (created by none other than Barbra Streisand), who requires powerful belts in addition to the ability to play broad comedy and sentimental romance?
Following tough internet discussion and criticism and a lack of Tony nominations, it was announced last month that Feldstein would be leaving the show in September, which quickly led to speculation that Lea Michele (who seemed destined to play Fanny Brice ten years ago during her “Glee” days) would reprise the role.
Last week, Feldstein posted on social media that she was leaving two months earlier than planned due to a supposed decision by production to “take the show in a different direction.” Less than 24 hours later, Michele was officially confirmed as the new Fanny.
Since then, there have been competing reports about whether or not the producers were given advance notice of Feldstein’s social media post. To make matters even more awkward, Feldstein was also absent from the series this weekend due to illness, leaving Fanny to be played by Julie Benko (who will take on the role full-time between Feldstein’s exit and Michele’s arrival). ).
By comparison, the “Paradise Square” scandal is far more serious and involves the alleged exploitation of theater performers. It deserves more attention and media attention.
Just after the show (which has struggled at the box office since previews began) was announced to be shutting down on Sunday, news spread that several lawsuits had been filed against the producers of the show. show for non-payment of fees and that direct deposit payments to cast members had been delayed. Thursday. The show also encountered issues with missed payments during rehearsals.
At the end of the week, the actors wrote to their union, the Actors’ Equity Association, asking that producer Garth Drabinsky be replaced on Equity’s “Not Working” list “due to payments and delinquent benefits and an ongoing pattern of abuse and neglect that has created an unsafe and toxic work environment,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. In response, Equity said it planned to place Drabinsky on the “Don’t not work”, which would effectively prevent him from being able to work with unionized actors in the future.
Drabinsky was a major 1990s Broadway producer who was later convicted of fraud and sentenced to prison. How exactly Drabinsky was able to return to Broadway with “Paradise Square” is a much bigger and scarier question than how Feldstein was cast and replaced as Fanny in “Funny Girl.”