Fanny Brice
Lea Michele as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl on Broadway. Photo: Matthew Murphy

“Let the world know you as you are, not as you think you should be, because sooner or later, if you are posing, you will forget the pose, and then where are you?”

Fanny Brice, American comedienne, singer, and lead character of Funny Girl, 1891-1951

Born in New York City, Fanny Brice was one of the greatest vaudeville stars of all time, having been discovered at a talent show when she was 13, winning $5. Her 40-year career spanned from the stage, to film, to radio, where she played the famously annoying character Baby Snooks until her death in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles. Brice’s remarkable life was the subject of the film Rose of Washington Square (1939) and of Funny Girl, the Broadway musical (1964) and a motion picture (1968). Funny Girl is now back on Broadway, starring Lea Michele as Fanny Brice, at The August Wilson Theatre.

Born Fania Borach to an immigrant Jewish family of wealthy saloon owners, Brice dropped out of school and got her start singing in burlesque houses and became known for her parodies and comic sketches, such as her famous routine of a dying ballet swan. She was offered a spot in the Ziegfeld Follies in 1910.

She rose to stardom at age 30 during the 1921 edition of the Follies, in which she introduced an English version of a French torch song, “My Man,” which became her trademark, and a hit song of the Roaring Twenties. Other songs identified with her were “Second Hand Rose,” “I Should Worry,” and “Rose of Washington Square.”

Brice’s love life alone was interesting enough to inspire two movies (including Funny Lady, where she is played by Barbra Streisand.) Her first marriage to a barber, as a teenager, would have been called a “starter marriage” today and lasted only a few days. Her second was to a gambling gangster, who went to prison and incurred hefty legal costs for Brice. They had two children, a girl and a boy. Next, Brice married a theater impresario with a wandering eye, leading to her third divorce. She said that, with her husbands, she was either happily miserable or miserably happy. Her most successful marriage was to her work.

Regarding her magnetic stage presence, Brice described her rapport with audiences this way: 

“Before I do anything, I got them with me, right there in my hand and comfortable. That's my job, to make them comfortable, because if they wanted to be nervous, they could have stayed home and added their bills.”

To get tickets for Broadway’s FUNNY GIRL starring Lea Michele, visit:


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