It’s impossible to believe there was once a time when Barbra Streisand wasn’t a living legend. What a world! But prior to March 26, 1964, Streisand was just another fast-rising star — albeit one with dozens of memorable appearances on popular talk shows, a Tony Award nomination, hit records and a couple of Grammys under her belt. Then that night during the opening of Funny Girl, a new musical about early 20th century entertainer Fanny Brice, at New York’s Winter Garden Theatre, something magical happened. Boom! Just like that a superstar was born. When Streisand forcefully sang the anthemic “I’m the Greatest Star” during the first act, the audience had no choice but to agree with her.
Likewise, the critics. “Some stars merely brighten up a marquee, Barbra Streisand sets an entire theater ablaze,” Time magazine raved. At just 21 (!), Streisand was the most-talked about entertainer on the planet. Through the force of her incredible drive, unconventional beauty and, most-of-all, her peerless talent she has maintained a gorgeously-manicured vice grip on that position and in the years since has proven to be one of the LGBT community’s most fiercely-dedicated allies.
Streisand scored another Tony nomination (Carol Channing won for Hello Dolly!) and later took the show to London, before repeating her performance four years later in the glossy film adaptation and nabbing a best actress Oscar (in an unprecedented tie with Katherine Hepburn!) for her efforts.
But just imagine being there opening night and seeing her perform the show live! Fortunately, a Streisand super-fan obtained some rarely-seen footage from the Broadway performance and generously posted it on Facebook.
OK, that footage is seriously exciting, there’s not a full performance of a scene or song to be had. Besides, nothing, I repeat nothing can compete with a crystal clear recording of Streisand’s fabled voice wrapped around the show’s other anthems such as “People” and “Don’t Rain on My Parade.” Luckily, this golden anniversary will be further commemorated with the release of the deluxe remastered edition of the Grammy Award-nominated Funny Girl cast album available April 29. Sorry Lea Michele, this is how it’s done.