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 :

  • Five Things I Loved About My Wedding – Kayleigh

    Five Things Loved About Wedding Kayleigh

    This is the fourth in a series of blog posts with a focus on those little things that make a wedding special. It is called Five Things I Loved About My Wedding. Read more

    The 24 May 2017 by   Wedincentralpark
  • Democracy and the Politics of Intolerance

    Democracy Politics Intolerance

    A democracy allows government to reflect the will of the people. Or does it? Here I would like to understand a bit better the dynamics through which radical... Read more

    The 24 May 2017 by   Dlittle30
  • Cable Girls – 1920s Era Women with a Modern Twist

    Cable Girls 1920s Women with Modern Twist

    Las Chicas del Cable – four women in 1920s Madrid – Cloche hats, colorful flapper frocks and bobbed hair. What’s not to enjoy about the new Netflix produced... Read more

    The 24 May 2017 by   Glamourdaze
  • BADASS Art Journal Page - All of Me....

    BADASS Journal Page Me....

    Embracing all parts of me and surrounded by miracles - Art Journal PageI found a couple of passports photos of myself recently and I was criticizing them becaus... Read more

    The 24 May 2017 by   Realityarts
  • Dutch Apple Loaf

    Dutch Apple Loaf

    This Dutch Apple Loaf is my kind of cake, soft and moist,  and filled with juicy chunks of apple and pecan nuts.  For a lovely hint of sweetness I have... Read more

    The 24 May 2017 by   Shadesofcinnamon
  • A Jumbo Passion Project

    The climber, facing away from the wall, gingerly peers over his toes to watch his sky-blue T-shirt flutter to the ground. He takes a deep breath, then turns in... Read more

    The 24 May 2017 by   Thervproject
  • Top 3 Dim Sum Restaurants in Chinatown

    Restaurants Chinatown

    Chicago’s Chinatown is home to some of the best restaurants in the city. Sundays can be especially crowded in this area, usually around brunch, as dim sum, a... Read more

    The 24 May 2017 by   Urbanmatter Chicago