Boyett said an open theater on Broadway had accelerated plans before crucial creative decisions could be made. And he was unable to raise the money for a lavish show budgeted at a whopping-for-the time $13 million to $14 million.
He swatted away scuttlebutt that casting Ambrose was the problem, while agreeing that it was part of what made investors hesitate. “Some people were holding back because they thought it was a big budget,” Boyett said. “And some people do such an incredible job of endowing a role the first time it’s hard to think of them being replaced.”
In a 2018 interview, Ambrose recalled the shock. “We were two weeks away from rehearsal,” she said. “Obviously it was a bummer, but as an actor, really, truly, it’s easy come, easy go. These things, they come together and they fall apart all the time.”
She was nominated for a Tony Award. Bartlett Sher was her director.
Sonia Friedman, now a powerhouse producer in London and New York, came to appreciate “Funny Girl” by hearing her older sister, Maria Friedman, perform “Don’t Rain on My Parade” in concert.
She made her first pitch for the rights in the late 1990s, she said, proposing a “pared-down” version, for British audiences, that would put story, not spectacle, front and center — and would be a vehicle for Maria, by then a London theater star.
“It looked like it might happen,” Friedman said, “and then Maria got pregnant. She moved on, I moved on.”