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As the Academy Award-winning actor and singer Barbra Streisand turns 75 on Monday, she can boast of having more platinum-selling albums than any woman ever. In the above photos, she’s a 19-year-old making her Broadway debut in a lesser-known Harold Rome musical about the garment business, I Can Get It for You Wholesale.
As LIFE magazine reviewed her performance in the May 18, 1962, issue: “Barbra has a lovely face that goes well with Cry Me a River and other sad ballads that she sings in nightclubs. But for her stage role she makes herself look like a sour persimmon in order to play an overworked office girl who secretly wants to be called pet names instead of being yelled at all day long, ‘Miss Marmelstein!'” It was a kinder review than the one she received in the New York Times, which described Streisand as a “natural comedienne” but also “a girl with an oafish expression, a loud irascible voice and an arpeggiated laugh.”
It was Streisand’s role a few years later as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl that would make a more lasting impression on audiences and critics alike. As TIME magazine reported in its April 10, 1964, cover story on her breakout, “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.'”
She had come a long way from her days as an introverted Brooklyn teen — and the years before she removed an “a” from her first name — as the TIME feature explained:
But some things don’t change: By the time the TIME cover came out, her three albums already made her the world’s best-selling female recording star on LP, the magazine reported at the time.