Get A Ticket: Barbra Streisand at the Blue Angel
Hello Everyone! As most of you know, I'm in the final stages of revising a memoir, readying it for publication. Only last week I read that the medical establishment has identified a new malady affecting writers: Revision Brain Syndrome. I've got it bad!
Over the past year, I've also learned from my brilliant editor, Elizabeth K. Kracht at Kimberley Cameron and Associates Literary Agency, that there are segments in every manuscript that need to be refined, segments that need to be amplified, and segments, no matter how wonderful, that need to be ditched.
But rather than hit DELETE on one of those pieces, I thought I'd share it with you, as it has to do with a remarkable person, Barbra Streisand, at a breakthrough moment in her career. A moment I was privileged to witness.
Here we go!
'I Can Get it For You Wholesale' has opened on Broadway, and a young actress in the show is doing a few late night turns at the Blue Angel, a classy club on East 55th Street. Their byword? Discovering tomorrow’s stars tonight. My date, Mr. Cosmopolitan, caught her act last year at the Bon Soir, this dusky den in Greenwich Village where the waiters walk around with flashlights hooked to their belts so the customers can find them. The Blue Angel is a huge step up.
"Where have you been?" the maître d’ asks, as he sees us coming toward him on the red carpet.
"Hello, Dario, how’s it going?"
"Good, good, but do you have a reservation? We’re filled tonight. I didn’t see your name in the book," he says scanning a page made gray with penciled entries.
"No, I thought we’d take a chance and drop by," my date says, pulling out a ten.
"It’s tight, but let's see what I can do. We’re booked solid because of this young singer."
We had seen Barbra Streisand a few nights ago, in the minor if hilarious role of Miss Marmelstein in the Broadway musical 'I Can Get it For You Wholesale.' When we heard she was doing a midnight turn at the Blue Angel, we wanted in.
Fully booked or not, Dario signals a waiter, and, straightaway, two chairs and a café table materialize from the back room. Following a table that's floating high overhead, we enter a narrow room that has red quilted walls, a small stage, a single spotlight, and a piano off to one side. It's an elbow-to-elbow crowd, everyone in high spirits.
Within minutes of taking our seats, the lights go down and a deep bass voice cuts through the smoke and chatter: Please welcome… Miss Barbra Streisand!
Out comes a striking 19-year old, simply dressed in a floor-length black skirt and a long-sleeved white blouse. Perching on a stool under the spotlight, she waits for the crowd to settle down. The pianist plays an introductory arpeggio, but the audience continues to talk. She sits patiently, one leg crossed over the other, the microphone resting on her knee. Seated no more than 10 feet from her, I have an unobstructed view of the prominent nose, the heavily made-up Cleopatra eyes, and her exceptionally long and graceful fingers.
Again, the pianist plays a few introductory chords, and this time she begins to sing over the chatter "Happy Days are Here Again," an old political tune that's been hanging around for years—but singing it in such a way you would have sworn you had never heard it sung before.
The reaction is immediate—the audience riveted, not so much by the lyrics or the melody, but by the way she had turned a hip-hip-hooray number into a plaintive lament. So it went with “Cry Me a River” and “Any Place I Hang My Hat is Home”—the voice swooping and diving, catching in sorrow and belting in pain.
By the time she gets around to singing that face-melting vocal, “When Sunny Gets Blue,” she’s killing us softly with her song. Everyone knows they're witnessing the birth of a star. Leaving the club, my date mentions that he's going to New Orleans on business next week, asks if I'd like to go along.