This week, after a long, dramatic behind-the-scenes saga, Lea Michele officially begins her tenure as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl on Broadway. It’s a prophecy that’s long been foretold in the ancient texts — the ancient texts being the hit TV series Glee, on which Michele’s character, Rachel Berry, landed the same role. Because of that story line and Rachel’s signature affinity for the Babs, gleeks don’t need a ticket or cast album to have a pretty good sense of what Michele’s Fanny might sound like.
In fact, Glee covered so many songs from Funny Girl that Ryan Murphy eventually abandoned his plans for a Michele-led, post-Glee Broadway revival of the show because he felt they’d already done it. Nevertheless, Michele will once again don that blue sailor dress, this time for real, which Vulture is celebrating tonight with a live-tweet rewatch of “Opening Night,” the episode of Glee in which Rachel does the same. So to prepare ourselves, let’s look back at every Funny Girl song performed on Glee throughout its run, ranking them from the freckles on the nose of life’s complexion to the roses of sheer perfection.
10. “You Are Woman, I Am Man” — Lea Michele and Ioan Gruffudd
(“The End of Twerk,” season five, episode five)
Rachel performs this song during a pivotal Funny Girl rehearsal in which she convinces her director to let her wear one of the worst wigs known to man. Wig aside, her performance isn’t much better. This song is very personality driven with nearly every other lyric begging to be delivered as a punch line. And while that’s something comedic genius Beanie Feldstein was able to nail, Michele as Rachel as Fanny doesn’t deliver. Instead she drains this song of all its humor by just singing it instead of performing it. She’s an onion roll on a plate full of onion rolls.
9. “I’m the Greatest Star” — Chris Colfer
(“I Am Unicorn” — season three, episode two)
Kurt Hummel has his hits, including “Rose’s Turn” and “Not The Boy Next Door,” but this is not one of them. This performance, despite all the swinging from scaffolding, fails to win him the role of Tony in McKinley High’s production of West Side Story. But to his credit, he does sound like a silver flute.
8. “Don’t Rain On My Parade (‘Pleak’ Version)” — Lea Michele
(“Choke” — season three, episode 18)
Rachel flopped hard with this one. Tasked with the most important performance of her life, her NYADA audition, she decides to play it safe with this old standby. Sure enough she chokes not once but twice, making the dean (Whoopi Goldberg) cut her audition short. As she leaves the auditorium and hilariously turns off the lights, a sobbing Rachel pleads for another chance, and through the sobs, her “please” turns into “pleak,” which quickly became an iconic line.
7. “I’m the Greatest Star” — Lea Michele
(“Opening Night” — season five, episode 17)
This number once again raises concerns about Michele’s ability to sing a punchline — or at least Rachel’s ability to do so. But she gives it a shot here, really hamming it up and making what a baby on a plane might interpret as funny faces. But the true cardinal sin of this performance is the abysmal production value. This is supposed to be Broadway, so where is the budget? It didn’t go to the wig, the set is laughable, three measly chorus girls wander in wearing streamers — it’s an embarrassment. McKinley High is breaking out pyrotechnics, indoor rain machines, and dozens of meticulously recreated Lady Gaga costumes for any random Wednesday, and this is all the Great White Way can muster up?
6. “Who Are You Now” — Lea Michele and Jane Lynch
(“Opening Night” — season five, episode 17)
They went in a bizarre direction with this one, having Rachel sing this emotional ballad alongside Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch), who typically sang on the show only for comedic effect. Whereas Rachel is thinking about the late Finn during this performance, Sue is thinking about a random man she met after they both walked out of the show, which feels like a false equivalency. Of course, Lynch did go on to star in Funny Girl herself as Mrs. Brice (beating Michele to the prize), but since she just left the show, this duet is our only chance to see these two share the Funny Girl stage.
5. “People” — Lea Michele
(“New New York” — season five, episode 14)
Rachel sings this classic on an empty stage for a Funny Girl “mic check,” but it’s really just a vehicle for a montage of all of her glee-club friends who’ve moved to New York. It’s nothing too exciting but demonstrates where her strengths really lie within this score.
4. “Funny Girl” — Idina Menzel
(“Theatricality” — season one, episode 20)
Idina Menzel, one of the most iconic Glee guest stars of all time, played the crucial role of Shelby Corcoran, a rival show-choir director turned Rachel’s birth mother. Menzel as Shelby takes the stage to show her students how it’s really done and performs this song with the greatest scene partner imaginable: her own reflection in the mirror. Fittingly, Shelby returns before Rachel’s Funny Girl audition, advising her that producers won’t want a carbon copy of Barbra Streisand — advice Rachel completely ignores as she proceeds to give us nothing but. As a side note: What a twisted web Funny Girl weaves because Menzel herself was once in talks for this iteration of Fanny before it went to Feldstein (and then Michele).
3. “My Man” — Lea Michele
(“Funeral” — season two, episode 21)
Michele sang this song so well that people are now trying to get them to rewrite an almost 60-year-old musical because, while famously part of the Funny Girl movie, it was never featured in the stage show — to the dismay of gleeks everywhere. Leading up to Michele’s debut, rumors bubbled about it potentially being added, but could the Funny Girl producers change their mind on a whim like that? Of course they could: They’re the messes who allow chaos to reign backstage at the August Wilson!
2. “Don’t Rain on My Parade” — Lea Michele
(“Sectionals” — season one, episode 13)
This was the peak of all television. It’s sectionals, and the New Directions are down tremendously after the competition stole their songs — what ever will they do? Then suddenly, a spotlight hits the back of the auditorium and Rachel emerges like a bat out of hell with her furrowed brow and black dress with a red sash (Kim Kardashian’s first choice for the Met Gala, but it was too historic to wear). It was the show’s first Funny Girl number and an instant standout, becoming so iconic that Michele recreated it at the 2010 Tonys, where she famously sang it to Jay-Z in front of Beyoncé.
1. “Don’t Rain on My Parade” — Naya Rivera
(“Frenemies” — season five, episode nine)
Glee very rarely repeated songs (despite what this list suggests), so when it happened, it was typically for dramatic effect or sentimental reasons. The former is the case here as Santana Lopez bursts into the St. James Theater to audition to be Rachel’s understudy, thus reigniting their feud. Santana starts her audition from the back of the auditorium, which is insane, and a furious Rachel whips her hair extensions around in horror. Not only is this a repeat, but it’s a near shot-for-shot remake of one of the show’s most famous numbers — a daunting assignment that the incredible Naya Rivera is able to not just pull off but exceed. The fresh and exciting new arrangement is everything we didn’t know “Don’t Rain on My Parade” could be.