Celeb Magazine

How 'The Greatest Star' Was Discovered

By Gibbs22manila @gibbscadiz

I remember Arthur [Laurents] telling me one afternoon while he was casting “I Can Get It for You Wholesale” about having just discovered a remarkable new actress. Her name was Barbra Streisand, he said. He told me how she had awkwardly entered from the wings with music pages falling behind her. Halfway across the stage, she realized what she had done, became embarrassed and walked back in embarrassment to pick them up. Then she asked for a chair to sit in while she sang. They brought her one, she sat in it, then looked around in a panic, stuck her hand in her mouth, took out some gum and put it under the chair. Arthur said: “At that moment, I knew she was a professional.”
-- STEPHEN SONDHEIM, in Comparing Stage Notes on Laurents
Miss Marmelstein--or how Arthur Laurents discovered 'the greatest star'
She played a minor part in I Can Get It for You Wholesale, but by the end of its brief run, that remarkable young actress had become a star, and the Streisand legend was born. Her character was Miss Marmelstein, a harried, frantic Jewish secretary fretting about how people never seemed to get her name--Yetta Tessye Marmelstein--right. Before this, Streisand, a struggling actress from Brooklyn, had been singing for her supper in New York clubs. At one point, she even worked as a switchboard operator, which so bored her out of her wits that she experimented with answering the phone in a variety of accents and going by the alias Angelina Scarangella.
I Can Get It for You Wholesale was her first foray on the Broadway stage, but even then the famous bullheadedness already showed. She fought to have her sitting-on-a-chair schtick incorporated into her big musical moment, and the endearing awkwardness of the scene--this kooky-looking, put-upon young woman with the big schnoz and even bigger voice swiveling on a chair, hilariously bemoaning her fate--proved her instincts right. It's all there in the original cast recording--Streisand in blazingly youthful voice lighting into Miss Marmelstein and turning the song into a bona-fide musical comedy gem.

Podcast Powered By Podbean
“The evening's find,” wrote Howard Taubman in the New York Times, “is Barbra Streisand, a girl with an oafish expression, a loud irascible voice and an arpeggiated laugh. Miss Streisand is a natural comedienne, and [the composer] Mr. Rome has given her a brash, amusing song, 'Miss Marmelstein,' to lament her secretarial fate.”
And from the biography Her Name is Barbra by Randall Riese: “I saw her opening night in 'Wholesale,'” recalls Barbra's friend Don Softness over thirty years later, and still with a measure of awe, “and she literally stopped the show. People were on their feet screaming and yelling for five minutes. It was eerie. It was electrifying. She was this mousy little girl who had this great big stage presence. The opening night audience in New York was a sophisticated one, and there was no doubt in their mind that they were seeing show business history in the making.”
It was 1962. Barbra Streisand was 19 years old. Funny Girl--and that prophetic musical declaration, I'm the Greatest Star--were just around the bend.


You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :

  • Star Stuff

    Star Stuff

    “We are made of star stuff” – the late great Carl Sagan. We are indeed. The very molecules of our body are traceable to the beginning of our galaxy, we are... Read more

    By  Flemmingbo
    CULTURE, PHOTOGRAPHY, TRAVEL
  • Rembrandt Van Rijn - The Greatest Painter

    Rembrandt Rijn Greatest Painter

    I took great umbrage at Tam's suggestion that we "have guns o the brain." Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Unlike some people I know, we happen to b... Read more

    By  Mikeb302000
    ART & DESIGN, CULTURE
  • Star Cameo

    Andrew Sullivan calls this “Lecture FAIL.” I call it Jessica Zafra bait. Wait for the real star of the Read more

    By  Gibbs22manila
    CULTURE
  • Don't You Forget About: Lick the Star

    Don't Forget About: Lick Star

    Sure, it's fun to catch the latest flick at the multiplex, or grab the newest release at a video store, but sometimes you just gotta say, "Out with the new,... Read more

    By  Cinefilles
    ENTERTAINMENT, MOVIES
  • First Thing... Star Wars

    Eureka! Well not exactly. Had an idea of a blog post that I can probably do on a recurring basis. It’s simple really. I put forth something related to cinema... Read more

    By  Raghavmodi
    ENTERTAINMENT, MOVIES
  • True Blood’s Denis O’Hare to Star in American Horror Story

    True Blood’s Denis O’Hare Star American Horror Story

    While we’re not entirely sure whether Denis O’Hare’s highly entertaining character on True Blood, Russell Edgington, will make a come back (well, O’Hare... Read more

    By  Tbfansource
    CELEB, TV & VIDEO
  • The Solari Cifra 3 - The Greatest Clock Ever Made

    Solari Cifra Greatest Clock Ever Made

    image credit The Solari Cifra 3 is a clock designed by Italian architect Gino Valle in 1965 and is widely considered a masterpiece of industrial design. It... Read more

    By  Gerard
    CULTURE, TECH