As recounted in David Foil's liner notes to the 1992 reissue of this original Broadway cast recording of Funny Girl, the musical went through many changes before its successful opening in New York on March 26, 1964. The original idea was to do a movie about Fanny Brice, the comic Ziegfeld Follies star, but eventually the project was diverted to Broadway, and it evolved into a star vehicle for Barbra Streisand. The 21-year-old had only appeared in one previous show, but on opening night she had placed three LPs in the Top Ten within the previous 12 months, turning her into a major star. As such, she completely overshadowed Brice but, especially on this initial recording of Jule Styne and Bob Merrill's score, she did convey a modicum of Brice's ethnic humor, albeit mixed with a big dose of her own personality and world-beating voice. Styne had composed the music with Streisand in mind, and she handled both the bravura, rangy belters "I'm the Greatest Star" and "Don't Rain on My Parade" as effectively as the tender ballads "People" (soon to become a hit single in a different recording from the one included here) and "The Music That Makes Me Dance." She dominated the album, taking eight of the 17 selections alone and also appearing on four others, but Kay Medford (as Brice's mother) and Danny Meehan (as a vaudeville friend) made strong impressions in such change-of-pace numbers as "If a Girl Isn't Pretty" and "Who Taught Her Everything?" Sydney Chaplin, as Brice's husband, the gambler Nick Arnstein, was less impressive, with a very limited vocal range that sounded even more inadequate than usual against Streisand's remarkable instrument. Quickly recorded, the album was relatively underproduced for a Streisand recording, but it captured a fresh performance she could not recreate later.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann