The Lea Michele Renaissance Is Nigh

Last week, you may have noticed an uptick in Lea Michele news. The news itself was a mess of confusing, alarming headlines. One minute she’s giving her best friend Jonathan Groff (who is gay) a non-sexual tour of her vagina. The next, she’s offering up her uterus to him if he ever wanted to have a child.

If you were wondering why the two stars were giving such TMI interviews, it’s because they were in the midst of a press blitz for the new HBO Max documentary on Spring Awakening. The show launched Michele and Groff into stardom 15 years ago, and the original cast reunited for a one-night only concert to both benefit The Actors Fund and also reminisce about what made this rock musical about sexually repressed German teens so special.

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On this week’s episode of Don’t Let This Flop, co-hosts Ej Dickson and Brittany Spanos do their own reflecting on the timing of the film which may help create a perfect storm for a Lea Michele comeback. Two years ago, during the George Floyd Protests, many Black artists come forward with harrowing tales of racism they’ve experienced in the industry. Michele’s name became muddied by tales of her allegedly terrorizing a young actress named Samantha Marie Ware, who appeared in the final season of the Michele-led series Glee. Ware alleged that Michele was rude on set and inflicted a number of “traumatic microagressions” against Ware and other co-stars. Michele’s long-time cast-mates Heather Morris and Amber Riley backed up Ware’s claims of the actress having horrible on-set behavior, though both disagreed with claims that Michele is racist. (Michele later apologized for “any pain” she had caused.)

Michele’s career had been already off track before her cancellation. Glee was meant to be her major breakout moment outside of Broadway, where she had already made a splash. Ryan Murphy even created the character of Rachel Berry specifically for Michele to play. While the show began as a major phenomenon, it fell apart just as quickly both in quality and in audience numbers. Over the years, she’s continued to have minor film and TV roles as well as a pop career, but nothing has taken off in the same way as her first two major roles.

Adding insult to injury, a long-stewing major project once rumored to feature Michele was officially cast with a younger, less controversial name. During the height of Glee, Ryan Murphy had bought the rights to Funny Girl with plans to have Michele play the iconic Barbra Streisand role in a Broadway revival. Murphy relinquished the rights, and now Beanie Feldstein is portraying Fanny Brice. When this revival was confirmed and announced, Michele-haters relished in the fact that she didn’t get the role she had made no secret of desperately wanting to take on.

As the Michele interview headlines rolled in last week, so did the reviews of Funny Girl, many of which panned Feldstein’s performance and singing as lackluster. The jokes were tepidly pro-Michele, with some TikTokers and tweeters joking that Feldstein’s poorly reviewed performance might be a long-con deployed by Murphy to help Michele stage a major comeback.

i need that aged out twink in prison #glee

♬ original sound – clown face

Whether you like her or not, it’s clear Michele has been on people’s minds a lot lately. Nostalgia is not always the best route to a surefire comeback, but between the well-received Spring Awakening doc and the ongoing Gen Z obsession with hate-watching Glee, there could be an opening for more Lea Michele in our future.

Also on this week’s episode of Don’t Let This Flop, Rolling Stone‘s podcast on internet culture, Dickson and Spanos discuss the right’s new moral panic around MGK and Megan Fox drinking each other’s blood, the Johnny Depp/Amber Heard defamation trial, and himbos who crush watermelon between their thighs. 

DLTF is released Wednesdays on all audio streaming platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, Stitcher, and more.

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