Broadway: The Girl

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This nose is a shrine. It starts at the summit of her hive-piled hair and ends where a trombone hits the D below middle C. The face it divides is long and sad, and the look in repose is the essence of hound. She is about as pretty, in short, as Fanny Brice; but as she sings number after number and grows in the mind, she touches the heart with her awkwardness, her lunging humor, and a bravery that is all the more winning because she seems so vulnerable. People start to nudge one another and say, "This girl is beautiful."

Barking Bagel. The show she dominates has a big New York sound, full of brass and sentiment, something that could have been written by Horatio Algerstein for the Ladies Home Joinal. A poor Jewish girl with limitless fight and no visible assets claws, clowns and sings her way to the top of show biz. She marries a beautiful cardboard man and realizes her most soaring dreams of love, only to lose him because she is more successful than he.

As with Bobby Morse in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, the best part of Funny Girl is watching Barbra Streisand negotiate the climb. In blue bloomers and a red sailor blouse, she is dancing her feet off on Keeney's vaudeville stage when Keeney notices her and fires her. "You think beautiful girls are going to stay in style forever?" she barks plaintively. Has he ever considered what it would be like if all he had ever seen were onion rolls and in walked a bagel? "That's my trouble," she says. "I'm a bagel on a plate full of onion rolls."

Height of Nonchalance. The bagel makes it at Keeney's and goes on to do everything but split and butter herself. Through the show, she has 18 costume changes and four hair styles. One moment she is hurtling through the air in a celebrational block party, and the next she is singing a deepsong called People ("People who need people are the luckiest people in the world"). One moment she is staggering offstage under a 3-ft. floral headdress that might have been fashioned by a faggot Cherokee, and the next she is an eight-months-pregnant bride in a mock-up Ziegfeld Follies production number.

So goes Funny Girl, a spun caduceus of Barbra Streisand the comic nut and Barbra Streisand the incomparable singer; Barbra Streisand in combat boots with red, white and blue bagels at her hips ("I'm Private Schvartz from Rock-avay"); Barbra Streisand throwing her head back and really bringing a downpour with Don't Rain on My Parade. Her best comic scene is one in which Sydney Chaplin (as Nicky) comes to life long enough to seduce her. She joins him in a private dining room in a restaurant. "That color is wonderful with your eyes," he tells her. "Just my right eye," she says. "I hate what it does to the left." She gulps his sherry, hides her pate under a chaise longue, and sings:

Isn't this the height of nonchalance?

Furnishing a bed in restaurants. She gulps more sherry, pauses to wonder "would a convent take a Jewish girl," circles the room on the run, and dives palms together onto the chaise to be had.

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