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From Songwriter to Stage

How Melissa Manchester’s journey with the National Tour of Funny Girl was decade in the making.

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Melissa Manchester and Katerina McCrimmon in the National Tour of Funny Girl. Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

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Melissa Manchester

Singer songwriter Melissa Manchester, playing Mrs. Brice in the National Tour of Funny Girl, was born into a musical family. The daughter of a bassoonist with The Metropolitan Opera, she said her house was always filled with music. But when she started writing songs at 15, it was like “finding a second language.” One could argue that it became her first—she has been a singer songwriter for over 45 years, with chart-topping and Grammy Award winning hits like “Midnight Blue” and “You Should Hear How She Talks About You.” Offstage from Funny Girl, she is releasing a new album, RE:VIEW, this year with new takes on her top hits and unheard and unreleased songs.

From her solo career, Manchester knows about the power of music firsthand. “Over the years, it has been so touching how people reflect back what [my] songs mean to them,” she said.

Manchester’s songs also have a life of their own, with Roberta Flack, Dusty Springfield, and even the original Funny Girl herself Barbra Streisand, covering her songs.

Being in Funny Girl is a full circle moment for Manchester. She saw Streisand in the show on Broadway in 1964 before she covered Manchester’s “Just One Lifetime” in 1999. When she first landed the role of Mrs. Brice in the national tour, she emailed Streisand, who congratulated her on carrying the torch of this story for new audiences.

But her connection to the show goes even further—Manchester was approached by composer Jule Styne to recreate Fanny Brice in the 80s. But she turned down the role, focusing on her solo career and her family.

Decades later, playing Mrs. Brice at this moment felt like it was perfect timing.

“I bring so much of my life and experience to [this role] as a mom and, now, grandma,” she said. “When I was learning this role, [Mrs. Brice] sounds like all of the women I grew up with, she sounds like all of my aunts.”

The Los Angeles stop of the tour is particularly exciting since it will be a family affair. “You’ll hear my sister screaming the loudest, no doubt,” she said. But she is also excited that her children, grandchildren, and friends will also see the show since this is where she now calls home.

Manchester thinks this tour—the first National Tour of Funny Girl in 60 years—is also aptly timed.

“It’s such a warm-hearted, funny, thrilling evening at the theatre,” she said. “People will be stirred to have music comfort them, excite them, exhilarate them, and walk away with a spectacular memory of time in a musical theatre.”

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