Lea Michele's Best Roles Prove She's More Than Just A Funny Girl
This list is Rachel Berry-approved.
Some people are just born for the stage, and there’s no better example of that star power than Lea Michele. The powerhouse singer got her start on Broadway and used her voice to land iconic roles in several major TV shows and movies. And she’s showing no signs of slowing down after landing the role of a lifetime as Fanny Brice in Broadway’s Funny Girl revival. If you’re just as caught up in Lea Michele’s big moment as the rest of the world, you might enjoy revisiting her best TV, movie, and theater roles.
Michele has been a big name in the theater world for decades, but for the non-thespians, she made her first big splash as the scarily ambitious singer Rachel Berry in the campy musical-comedy Glee. Throughout the years, Michele has used her powerhouse voice to make all her roles truly iconic, whether they’re on stage, TV, or film. And it all led up to her casting as Fanny Brice in 2022’s Funny Girl revival — the part that she’s proclaimed her dream role throughout her career. Now that Michele is officially our funny girl, here are the performances fans should look back on that paved the road to her big part.
1. Spring Awakening (2006)
Michele got her start on Broadway at just 9 years old as the younger version of Cosette in Les Misérables, but her true breakout role was in the inescapably buzzy Spring Awakening. The rock musical about 19th century German schoolchildren learning about their sexuality was an unexpected phenomenon, and Michele was at the center of it all as the curious Wendla. It also marked the beginning of her career-long friendship with Jonathan Groff, whom she’s collaborated with several times since.
2. Les Misérables (2008)
After becoming Broadway’s big name because of Spring Awakening’s success, Michele returned to the musical that started it all for her, but in a much meatier role. She played the tragic rebel Éponine in the Hollywood Bowl’s 2008 production of Les Mis.
3. Glee (2009)
Conquering Broadway was one thing, but then Michele set her sights on television as the star of Fox’s musical-comedy Glee. Michele played the annoyingly ambitious (but undeniably talented) glee club singer Rachel Berry for all six seasons of the hit series, delivering countless memorable performances throughout its run. The role also allowed Michele to show off her rendition of “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” the breakout number from Funny Girl that Michele would finally get to perform on Broadway a little over a decade later.
4. New Year’s Eve (2011)
Broadway? Check. TV? Check. Now, it was time for Michele to enter the film world, and she did it in what is possibly one of the most star-studded movies ever. 2011’s rom-com New Year’s Eve starred just about every A-lister in Hollywood, including Sarah Jessica Parker, Halle Berry, Ashton Kutcher, and Zac Efron, just to name a few. Among the sprawling cast was Lea Michele, marking her film debut as Elise, an aspiring singer who sparks a romance with Randy (Kutcher) after they get stuck in an elevator together on New Year’s Eve.
5. Scream Queens (2015)
Glee wasn’t just Michele’s biggest TV role, it was also the start of one of her most important creative partnerships. Showrunner Ryan Murphy brought his Glee starlet along to his next campy series, casting Michele as the hilariously demented sorority girl Hester in his over-the-top slasher series Scream Queens. Michele was one of the few cast members to appear in both seasons of the show, joining her fellow Chanels in becoming a nurse for Season 2’s hospital setting.
6. Dimension 404 (2017)
A pretty notable departure from Michele’s past roles, the actor took on a darker sci-fi part in the first episode of the 2017 anthology series Dimension 404. In the series premiere, “Matchmaker,” Michele played Amanda, the seemingly perfect match that lonely music blogger Adam (Robert Buckley) noticed on a dating app. However, as Adam and Amanda got to know each other better, strange things began to happen, leading to a shocking revelation. You’ll have to watch it for yourself to see what that is.
7. The Mayor (2017)
So many incredible comedic actors blew up thanks to a buzzy broadcast sitcom, and Michele finally got hers when she starred in ABC’s The Mayor. The show, about an up-and-coming rapper who winds up getting elected mayor of a California town after jokingly running to promote his music, let Michele do what she does best. Her character Valentina was basically an evolution of Rachel Berry — a high-strung, incredibly organized chief of staff. The Mayor only lasted one season, but it’s worth seeking out for its sharp political comedy.
8. The Little Mermaid (2019)
After taking a break from the stage to conquer the world of TV and movies, Michele dove back into her first true love: the theater. She made as splash as Princess Ariel in the Hollywood Bowl’s 2019 production of The Little Mermaid, joining the ranks of performers who sang out the iconic “Part of Your World” live on stage.
9. Funny Girl (2022)
As anyone who’s even tangentially followed Michele’s career throughout the years knows, her Broadway dreams finally came true in 2022 when she joined the Funny Girl revival’s cast as rising star Fanny Brice. Michele has spoken about her idolization of the original Fanny Brice, Barbra Streisand, for years, and proven she can nail the Funny Girl songs at various live events. Now, it’s finally time for Michele to take the spotlight, and nobody’s going to rain on her parade.