Night Club Singer Is Chosen for 'Funny Girl' Lead


July 26, 1963

21-year-old night club singer who has appeared on Broadway only once will play Fanny Brice in "Funny Girl," the new musical planned for this season.

She is Barbra Streisand, whom local theatergoers will recall as the comic Miss Marmelstein, the under-loved secretary in the musical of Jerome Weldman's "I Can Get It For You Wholesale."

At the Riviera in Las Vegas, Nev., where she is appearing until Aug. 4, Miss Streisand expressed delight yesterday at getting the part. She said that she did not know too much about Miss Brice except what she had learned from the musical script and some news notes.

"But," she added, "we're very much alike. It's like me talking. Like Miss Brice, I find it hard to take advice from anyone.

"Here was a woman," she continued, "who was the same way--she refused to heed her mother or Florenz Ziegfeld, the showman who engaged her for one of his musicals," Miss Streisand said. "Funny Girl" deals with the romance, marriage and divorce of Miss Brice and Nicky Arnstein, the late gambling figure here. Asked how she was preparing herself for the role, Miss Streisand replied that she would "be myself." She said that she would do this because it was what the show's director, Bob Fosse, had asked. She plans to be here for the start of rehearsals in November — the opening here is planned for Feb. 13.

Won Cabaret Contest

Miss Streisand's professional career began after she won a talent contest in a Greenwich Village cabaret. This led to singing engagements at the Bon Soir and the Blue Angel, to television appearances with Mike Wallace and Jack Paar, to an Off Broadway show called "Another Evening With Harry Stoones" and finally to Broadway.

If recent biographical notes about her have proved confusing, Miss Streisand has a personal reason.

"I never lie about little things, only about big things," she said. "My life is whatever I want it to be," she insists. To Playbill, the official program for Broadway stage attractions, she has confided that she was born in Madagascar, reared in Rangoon and educated at the Yeshiva of Brooklyn.

Actually, Miss Streisand admits she was born in Brooklyn and graduated from Erasmus Hall High School. But she insists on the prerogative of writing her own biography. She threatens to demand "a blank space" in the programs for "Funny Girl" if her fanciful biographical notes are not printed.

Miss Streisand is equally eccentric on the spelling of her given name. "I always hated it," she said, "but I did not want to drop it, so I changed it slightly from Barbara to Barbra."

Arrival for her, she added, will come when "everybody spells it the way I write it."


Related Links: Funny Girl, Broadway Show pages