Lauren Ambrose of Six Feet Under fame will star in a Funny Girl revival.
You never know which young actresses are going to deliver for the long haul. In the wake of Wednesday's news that the former Six Feet Under star will play Fanny Brice in a Broadway revival of Funny Girl, I count Lauren Ambrose among the keepers.
This girl's got guts, taking on Barbara Streisand's iconic stage character, but I shouldn't be totally surprised. The first clue that the red-haired actress had genuine range presented itself when I sat down with Ambrose to talk about Six Feet Under. HBO's Emmy-winning series about a dysfunctional family of undertakers cast Ambrose as perpetually ticked off teenager Claire Fischer.
On camera Ambrose radiated such a strong dose of adolescent angst that I fully expected a snarling, monosyllabic slacker to show up at the funky little café in Venice, California where we'd arranged to meet.
Instead, a moon-eyed 24-year old with perfect porcelain skin came in. Dressed in cargo pants and sweet as the banana bread she ordered, Ambrose came across as an all-pro. As she discussed her early days commuting from a small town in Connecticut for Law and Order auditions. Drawing on her own adolescence for Six Feet Under came easily, she told me. "Everyone's sort of miserable in high school aren't they? I think everyone is.''
Ambrose betrayed a bit of East Coast edge when one cafe patron exited without closing the door. "What were you, born in a barn?" she muttered.
I liked her.
After Six Feet Under ran its course, Ambrose had the good sense to leave Los Angeles and move to New York. She made her Broadway debut in Lincoln Center's 2006 revival of Awake and Sing, wowed critics as Juliet in a Shakespeare in the Park production of Romeo and Juliet, returned the next year as Ophelia in the Public Theater's Hamlet, and held her own opposite Geoffrey Rush in Eugene Ionesco's Exit the King.
Dozens of song and dance professionals would bring more musical theater experience to Funny Girl, but Ambrose, now 33, is more than a marquee attraction. When we met, she seemed just as interested in describing her childhood gigs singing opera and crooning jazz numbers at gigs supervised by her caterer-parents.
In a statement released by L.A.'s Ahmanson Theater, which will present Funny Girl in April for a pre-Broadway production, Ambrose said “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. The character is complex, the music beautiful and challenging. I can’t wait to get into that rehearsal room. I wish we could start tomorrow!”
Truth is, Ms. Ambrose: you started a long time ago.