It’s been quite the year for actress Julie Benko.
Julie won the role of standby for Fanny Brice in the Broadway revival of “Funny Girl,” and her first performance in the show was on April 29, 2022. Then, when it was announced that Lea Michele would replace Beanie Feldstein in the title role and Feldstein subsequently departed the show early, Julie became the replacement for Fanny. Currently, she is the alternate for Fanny, playing the role every Thursday night and whenever Lea Michele is unable to perform. (Just yesterday, producers announced that “Funny Girl” will close over Labor Day Weekend 2023.)
Benko’s portrayal of Fanny Brice has been highly praised. Reviewer Mara Sandroff gushed over Julie, calling her “luminescent” and adding, “She capably pulled us through Fanny Brice’s emotional journey from starry-eyed girl (who thinks the stage is all that matters) to heartbroken woman (who knows painfully well it is not).”
Plus, like Fanny Brice, Julie is Jewish!
So, here are 18 things to know about Julie Benko.
1. She was born on March 24, 1989 to a Jewish family.
2. She grew up in Fairfield, Connecticut.
3. Julie got the “theater bug” after being cast as Hodel in a production of “Fiddler on the Roof” at age 14. The show was put on by the Bridgeport JCC, and her parents and sister were also cast!
4. She had her first kiss during the production of “Fiddler.” Oo la la!
5. She attended Fairfield Ludlowe High School and later graduated from New York University with a BFA in Drama in 2013. She would also receive her Masters in Fine Arts in Acting from NYU in 2021.
6. Julie began her professional acting career in 2008 when she was cast as an understudy in the national tour of “Spring Awakening.”
7. Soon after, she joined the 25th anniversary tour of “Les Misérables,” eventually taking on the role of Cosette.
8. In 2015, Julie became a swing in the 2015 Broadway revival of “Fiddler on the Roof.”
“I’ve covered eight roles in ‘Fiddler,’ and I feel like Fanny is more than all that put together,” Julie told the New York Times.
9. Per this Instagram caption, she’s learning Yiddish on Duolingo!
10. She wrote, directed and starred in a short film in 2020 called “The Newlywed’s Guide to Physical Intimacy.” It’s about a Hasidic Jewish couple consummating their marriage on their wedding night, and you can watch it here.
11. Julie met her future husband Jason Yeager in a Starbucks in 2013. They were married in 2021 and have a gorgeous ketubah:
12. In 2022, Julie and husband Jason released an album entitled “Hand in Hand.”
13. For her portrayal of Fanny Brice, the New York Times named Julie “The 2022 Breakout Star” for Theater.
14. You simply have to see her mom’s reaction to the news that she booked her role in “Funny Girl.”
15. According to the New York Times, Julie did not set out to do an impersonation of Barbra Streisand as Fanny Brice. Instead, she wanted to her performance to be authentic to the real Fanny Brice.
As Julia Jacobs wrote, “Before rehearsals began in February, Benko read biographies of Brice and excerpts from her diaries. She worked with an archivist at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts to watch old footage of Brice doing goofy dances and contorting her face into silly expressions.”
16. It’s been very meaningful for Julie to play such an iconic Jewish character.
“I feel like I’ve been able to bring so much of my Jewish identity to the role,” she told Hey Alma. “Fanny’s accent is the one that my grandparents had and her comedy was based in her Jewish identity. So as a Jewish person, it’s been fun to play those Jewish comedic moments.”
17. After Neo-Nazis protested the first preview of Broadway musical “Parade,” Julie shared her thoughts on TikTok:
18. In February 2023, Julie released her performance of the song “Start with a Bang,” written by Dan Mertzlufft and Kate Leonard.
Brava, Julie! We can’t wait to see what you do next!