Musical Theatre Legends: Barbra Streisand

Just like any entertainment area, the musical theatre industry is a tough one to succeed in. The world is full of talented people, so those who actually make it are the few and the fortunate. Everyone who’s chosen to stand upon the stage as part of a big West End or Broadway show has the necessary talent to be there, that’s undeniable, but there are those certain individuals who just have something…more, that transforms them into more than a star of the stage; that turns them into an icon. We have some truly stunning leading ladies around at the moment, such as Kerry Ellis, Sierra Boggess and Louise Dearman, but still in the early throes of success, they need to give a few more years to their careers to achieve the kind of iconic status held within the musical theatre industry by the likes of Julie Andrews, Patti LuPone, Bernadette Peters, Angela Lansbury and Idina Menzel. Musical theatre legends, all of them. When you talk about musical theatre legends though, there is one name which immediately springs to everyone’s lips: Barbra Streisand.

I got to thinking about her recently as it seems that wherever I turn, people are still talking about the timeless Ms Streisand. In the last week, I’ve had one friend telling me he’d bought his mother the new Barbra Streisand album as she’s a huge ‘Babs’ fan, and been drawn into a conversation about Leona Lewis’ cover of ‘Somewhere’ at the Barbra Streisand tribute concert which took place in 2011. Having been catching up on Season 5 of Glee as well, I’ve noticed how big a presence she has there too as the character Rachel Berry prepares to take on her defining role in Funny Girl. She has been referenced frequently throughout the course of the American TV sitcom.

An actress, singer, composer, director, and so many other things too, Barbra Streisand has succeeded in so many different areas, but the stage is where it all began for her. She gained a fan following as a nightclub singer, which only increased when she appeared in her first Broadway role, playing Miss Marmelstein in I Can Get It For You Wholesale. The release of her début album in 1963, simply entitled The Barbra Streisand Album, quickly followed. It was her casting in the 1964 Broadway production of Funny Girl that lit the spark which caused her career to sky-rocket though. She went on to play the lead role of Fanny Brice in both the West End and in the 1968 film adaption, starring opposite Omar Sherif. Fanny Brice is what cemented her status as a musical theatre legend and it remains the defining role of her entire career.

She has done so much more though. She’s also known for her performances in film musicals such as the Funny Girl sequel, Funny Lady, along with Hello Dolly!, The Owl and the Pussycat, A Star Is Born and Yentl, the latter of which she also directed, produced and co-wrote. Then there are her other non-musical film roles, including her memorable turn as Roz Focker in both Meet The Fockers and Little Fockers. Her last film appearance was in the 2012 comedy The Guilt Trip, in which she starred opposite Seth Rogen.

Her unique voice has led to a seemingly never-ending demand from fans, who snap up every album she releases – and she’s released a lot! There’s been a new album nearly every year since her first effort with The Barbra Streisand Album, which earned her her first Grammy Award, although she has gone on to win so many more awards since then. Her early albums ranged from musical theatre covers to tie-ins of her television specials before she moved onto more contemporary material. She returned to her Broadway roots with the 1985 album, The Broadway Album, which featured the songs of such revered musical theatre composers as Rodgers & Hammerstein and Stephen Sondheim. Her most recent offering is the album Partners, released in September 2014. Her 34th studio album features 12 new Streisand duets with some of the greatest male vocalists in the world, such as Stevie Wonder, Michael Buble, Lionel Richie, Josh Grobin, Andrea Bocelli, and even a ‘virtual duet’ with the late Elvis Presley. She also performs with her son Jason Gould on ‘How Deep Is The Ocean?’

Barbra Streisand is in that elite group of people who have won an Oscar, Emmy, Grammy and Tony Award, along with numerous other awards. She has also been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame three times.

There’s not many people out there who could rival the kind of success that Barbra Streisand has had, or match the level of her fans’ adoration of her. How many people who are emulated through tribute acts or have their own memorabilia…Duck Sauce even named their 2010 disco hit after her. Her talent and the choices in her career have seen her become not only a musical theatre icon, but a gay icon as well, right up there with Judy, Liza and Bette, and at 72 years of age, she is still amazing and will always be considered musical theatre royalty. She sang in Funny Girl, ‘I’m The Greatest Star’ and there isn’t a more perfect song for the always beautiful and inspiring Babs.

By Julie Robinson: missjulie25

Thursday 2nd October 2014

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