One of Streisand’s most memorable stage and screen roles saw her starring as the acclaimed American-Jewish comedienne, singer, stage and film actress, Fanny Brice. In 1964, 13 years after Brice’s death, a 22-year-old Babs appeared on Broadway in Funny Girl, a musical based on the highs and lows of her life, including her stormy relationship with entrepreneur and gambler Nick Arnstein. The musical score introduced two of Barbra’s signature songs – People and Don’t Rain On My Parade – as well as Second Hand Rose, with its Yiddish sprinkling of “Nu!” at the end. The critically-acclaimed show opened in London in 1966, before a film adaptation two years later. Despite it being her first movie, Babs won the 1968 Academy Award for best actress, sharing it with Katharine Hepburn for The Lion In Winter – the only time there has ever been a tie at the Oscars for this category.
In the 1973 box office smash, The Way We Were, Barbra stars as curly-haired Kate Morosky, an outspoken Marxist Jew with strong political opinions, who falls in love with the handsome, blonde-haired and very un-Jewish Hubbell Gardiner (played by Robert Redford). Despite their obvious chemistry, the couple don’t last the distance and go their separate ways. The rousing theme tune, The Way We Were, composed by Marvin Hamlisch, gave Barbra her very first number one single in the US and sold more than two million copies. In 1998, the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Stars in her eyes
Judy Garland played the main role in 1954, while more recently, Lady Gaga landed the part. But when Barbra was picked for the third remake of A Star Is Born, in 1976, Esther, an aspiring singer with a career on the rise, who falls in love with Kris Kristofferson’s self-destructive rock star, became decidely more Jewish when the character’s last name was changed to Hoffman. The title track, Evergreen, earned Barbra an Academy Award for best original song – making her the first woman to be honoured as a composer – alongside lyricist Paul Williams.
As the credits roll at the end of Yentl, one name dominates them all – no surprise, as Barbra directed, co-wrote, co-produced and starred in this epic shtetl-filled musical based on a short story by Isaac Bashevis Singer. Babs stars as Yentl, a nice Jewish girl who decides to live as a man so she can continue her Jewish learning after her father dies, alongside Mandy Patinkin as yeshiva student Avigdor and Amy Irving as Hadass, his fiancée. The most Jewish of all Barbra’s films, Yentl features plenty of shtreimels, shadchans, over-sized Talmudic tomes, – and baked apples “that taste good a little burnt”. The film’s songs, composed by Michel Legrand, include Barbra’s sweeping vocals on Papa, Can You Hear Me? and The Way He Makes Me Feel, and earned the film an Oscar for best original score.
Aside from singing, Barbra is also known for her comic shtick and in 2004 she was cast alongside Dustin Hoffman as the mother of Greg (played by Ben Stiller) in Meet The Fockers. Playing Roz, a sex therapist for elderly couples, Barbra proves the perfect foil to her straight-laced machutanim, CIA operative Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro) and his wife, Dina (Blythe Danner), parents of Greg’s fiancee, Pam (Teri Polo). Thanks to Babs, there’s a bisl Yiddish that makes its way into the script, from her loud exclamations of oy, nischt gut to a lesson in how to pronounce the “ch” in l’chaim, “like you have popcorn stuck in your throat.”
Barbra Streisand performs at British Summer Time Hyde Park on Sunday, 7 July. Details: bst-hydepark.com
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- British Summer Time Hyde Park
- barbra streisand
- Funny Girl
- Fanny Brice
- Nick Arnstein
- Don't Rain On My Paradem Katharine Hepburn
- The Lion In Winter
- The Way We Were
- Kate Morosky
- Hubbell Gardiner
- Robert Redford
- Kris Kristofferson
- Marvin Hamlisch
- Paul Williams
- isaac bashevis singer
- Amy Irving
- Mandy Patinkin
- Michel Legrand
- Papa Can You Hear Me
- The Way He Makes Me Feel
- Meet The Fockers
- Ben Stiller
- Dustin Hoffman
- Teri Polo
- Blythe Danner
- Robert De Niro
By Joe Millis