“The Boy Friend”

Cecilwood Theatre Playhouse

Fishkill, New York

August 16—30, 1960

When she was 18 years old, Barbra Streisand was cast as “Hortense,” the French Maid, in Sandy Wilson's musical, The Boy Friend. Barbra's acting teacher, Curt Conway, cast her in the Theater Studio's summer stock production at the Cecilwood Theatre.

In her book, Remembering Fishkill, Willa Skinner wrote: “Set back from the highway, fronted by a spacious lawn with a long driveway rimmed by tall trees, the [Cecilwood] theater was built by businessman Cecil Gage on his Fishkill estate with the intention of bringing professional theatre to the hudson Valley.”

Streisand plays in Boyfriend

Above: Flatbush Life, August 21, 1960, profiled Barbra Streisand (and spelled her name correctly!)

Ron Rifkin, who also performed at Cecilwood that summer recalled, “She was extraordinary. She made up this crazy accent—French from the moon—and during the rehearsal lunch breaks, she wouldn't eat but would stay in the empty theater practicing ‘A Sleepin' Bee.’ She had a single-mindedness about her, a drive that I had never seen before.”

Lou Antonio studied with Conway, too, and was at the theatre one day preparing for another summer stock play. “During a lunch break one afternoon, I was in my Fishkill dressing room going over my lines for the next week's play when I heard the sensitive sounds of Streisand singing a Harold Arlen song, 'A Sleepin' Bee,' from House of Flowers. Intrigued, I stood off-stage and watched and listened. She was downstage center facing the darkened empty theater singing à cappella, strongly involved in the story of the song.”

Streisand shows some leg as Hortense, the French maid

As Hortense, Streisand had a big song called “Nicer in Nice.” Some of the lyrics are:

They say it's lovely when a

Young lady's in Vienna

But it's nicer, much nicer in Nice

In Amsterdam or Brussels

The men have great big muscles

But they're nicer, much nicer in Nice

I've heard that the Italians

Are very fond of dalliance

And they're also keen on it in Greece

But whatever they may say

This is where I want to stay

For it's so much nicer in Nice...

Below: a rare shot of Streisand as Hortense in The Boy Friend. She is probably singing “Nicer in Nice” in the photograph.

Nicer in Nice


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