The "New York Times" reports on Barbra Streisand's Broadway debut
"The evening's find is Barbra Streisand, a girl with an oafish expression, a loud irascible voice and an arpeggiated laugh. Miss Streisand is a natural comedienne," proclaimed the March 23, 1962, New York Times review of the Broadway musical I Can Get It for You Wholesale.
By the time Streisand made her Broadway debut in I Can Get It for You Wholesale, she had already developed a loyal following as a singer. In performances at the Lion Club, one of New York City's premier gay clubs, and in other clubs around the country, the young Streisand developed her trademark outsider persona, impromptu one-liners, and theatrical delivery that brought audiences to their feet.
Streisand's performance as Miss Marmelstein in I Can Get It for You Wholesale was so successful that the role was expanded for her, with new songs added. Despite national acclaim for her performance, she was considered too Jewish, too eccentric, too unattractive, and too marked by her Brooklyn upbringing for a record contract. Streisand established a permanent claim on American pop culture, however, with the premiere of Funny Girl on Broadway on March 26, 1964. A New York Times review reported that her impersonation of comedian Fanny Brice had "knocked New York on its ear." Streisand, the reviewer noted, "at the tremulously tender age of 22" was "Broadway's newest star." When Columbia Records released The Barbra Streisand Album in 1964, it remained on the charts for 18 months. Streisand's movie debut in a film version of Funny Girl in 1968, won Streisand an Oscar and cemented her place among the stars of American theatre and film.
After Funny Girl, Streisand went on to star in 15 more movies, including Funny Lady, The Way We Were, Yentl, and The Prince of Tides, the latter two of which she also directed. Not all of Streisand's projects have been successful. Hello, Dolly! and On a Clear Day You Can See Forever were box-office flops, and The Mirror Has Two Faces was reviewed unfavorably. However, Streisand's successes have vastly overshadowed these missteps. She has won ten Golden Globe Awards, eight Grammy Awards, Emmy Awards, Oscars, and a special Tony award, and has sold more records than any singers except the Beatles. Her 49 gold albums are exceeded only by Elvis.
Saying that "I have enough money, thank God, and the only reason I want it is to give it away," Streisand has been generous to a variety of causes. Through the Streisand Foundation, she has supported Jewish charities in the U.S. and in Israel, environmental projects, AIDS education and care, and Democratic politicians. As importantly, Streisand has changed the face of the female movie star. Never afraid to be emphatically Jewish and herself, she has opened the door to other actresses who look more ethnic than the Hollywood mainstream. She has also challenged Hollywood's gender norms, directing three of her own movies, and insisting on total control of all her projects.
Streisand has also spoken out through her television work. Her company, Barwood Films, has made television dramas about gun control and about military harassment of gay and lesbian Americans. Her humanitarian and political work has been recognized by the AIDS Project Los Angeles, which honored her with its Commitment to Life Award in 1992, and by the ACLU, which gave her its Bill of Rights Award. In 2004, she was awarded the Humanitarian Award from the Human Rights Campaign.
To learn more about Barbra Streisand, visit Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia.
Sources:www.barbrastreisand.com; Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, pp. 1349-1353; New York Times, March 26, 1962.