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Briefly, on Barbra Streisand

But it’s January and there’s nothing else going on, so let’s take two seconds and talk about Barbra Streisand, all right? Specifically, let’s talk about Barbra Streisand in one of my favorite videos on all of YouTube, and that video is right here:

This is theater-relevant for many reasons, but the most basic two are as follows:

1. Barbra Streisand started out her career as a Broadway actor like Jeremy Jordan was once a Broadway actor and like Patrick Wilson and Jonathan Groff were once Broadway actors. I’m not making an apples to apples to apples to apples comparison here in terms of talent or sanity, but in terms of the functional profession, it’s basically the same thing.

2. Oscar Hammerstein wrote the lyrics to this song. It was written for a 1928 musical called The New Moon, which wasn’t even really a musical, because musicals weren’t even really musicals yet. They were like fetus musicals.

But what I love about Barbra in this video is not just her singing (Hail Mary…) or her dress (I want one…) or that sparkly brooch pinned to it (I want three…). What I love about Barbra in this video and in the whole of the swinging sixties — two-time Tony-losing Barbra — is not how she sings or looks, but how she is. How her aw-shucks-y, fidget-y, nose-to-the-heavens-so-God-can-see-what-he-created thing feels both so affected and so totally real. Like she kind of knows she’s basically the best thing since sliced bread but she’s terrified — terrified — that she might not be. But she’s terrified only intermittently — like, once every six seconds. And then it goes away and she’s radiant like the sun and moon and stars. I could not love this more if she broke through the screen and kissed me. Watch. Enjoy. And delete that MP3 of Lea Michele singing “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” please for the love of God.

{ 2 comments… add one }

  • Karen January 22, 2013, 1:57 pm

    She’s also terrified because she has massive stage freight – which shows how much theatre and music are a calling for her, not as much a job as a vocation.

  • Laila January 26, 2013, 8:37 am

    I love Barbra – but this clip looks to me as though she is miming!!!!!

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