The Blue Angel

Streisand singing at Blue Angel

152 East 55th Street

New York, NY

November 16—December 13, 1961

July 16—August 17, 1962

January 8—28, 1963

The Blue Angel, named after the Marlene Dietrich film and run by Max Gordon and Herbert Jacoby, was a classy New York nightclub with a red carpet at its entrance. The back room, where Barbra and other entertainers performed, was long and narrow, with quilted walls. The stage was lit by a single spotlight.

Barbra performed three four-week stints at The Blue Angel: in 1961, 1962 and 1963.

1961 Shows

After closing the off-Broadway review Another Evening with Harry Stoones, Barbra went to work at The Blue Angel in November 1961.

Streisand was third on the bill for the 1961 shows.

Headlining was Pat Harrington, Jr. In the 1970s, he played Schneider the handyman on the CBS sitcom One Day at a Time. In 1961, he performed comedy characters in his nightclub act.

Following Harrington was the Canadian folk duo Ian Tyson and Sylvia Fricker (Tyson & Fricker).

Streisand came third, and her reviews were excellent. Variety said Streisand knew "her way with a song."

Broadway producer Philip Rose (A Raisin in the Sun and Owl and the Pussycat) saw Streisand at the Blue Angel and wrote about it:

At the Angel, where she was the opening act for Fat Jack Leonard, a borscht belt comic, she did something amazing. The audience, which had of course come to see Leonard, paid no attention to the loudspeaker announcement, “We now present Barbra Streisand.” She came on, sat down on a stool, and her pianist Peter Daniels played an introductory arpeggio to her first song. The audience continued drinking, talking, paying no attention, obviously prepared to be bored until Leonard would appear. While the pianist repeated the arpeggio, Barbra continued to wait. Only when most of the audience was finally looking at her, did she nod to the pianist and begin her opening number, a quiet Harold Arlen song. During that performance she also sang her incredible version of “Happy Days Are Here Again.” By the end, the audience wouldn't have cared if Jack E. Leonard had never come on.”

On the same day she started singing at The Blue Angel, Barbra went to an audition for a new Broadway musical called I Can Get It for You Wholesale. The musical's creative team (Arthur Laurents, Harold Rome and Jerome Weidman) went to The Blue Angel to see her perform and eventually cast her in the show.

Streisand also opened for the folk group Peter, Paul and Mary during the 1961 run at The Blue Angel.

1962 Shows

In 1962, Streisand was the headliner at The Blue Angel, with comedian Bob Lewis sharing the bill.

This time, Arthur Laurents staged her nightclub act, giving her advice like “Don't look down.” (The spotlight highlighted her chin unflatteringly).

Barbra performed at The Blue Angel following her Wholesale performance. In 1995, Laurents told The Advocate, “ I brought Steve Sondheim to hear her. He didn’t like her voice at all. And she didn’t like his music. Now you couldn’t get a piece of paper between the two of them, they’re so close.”

Streisand sang her club standards at The Blue Angel like “Any Place I Hang My Hat is Home,” “Value,” “Cry Me A River,” and “Happy Days Are Here Again.”

Columbia Records’ Artists and Repertoire director David Kapralik was an early Streisand fan. “I remember I was at home watching [The Garry Moore Show] when she came on,” he said. “And the hairs began to rise on the back of my neck. I was transfixed by this singer [...] I found out she was down at the Blue Angel. I went there, to see her in person, to find out if she could set off the same electricity. She could, and she did. She absolutely destroyed me. No one since Edith Piaf affected me so. She had an auteur, a primal force about her. She went through the full spectrum of emotions. She put me in that special place between laughter and tears.”

Below: Blue Angel owners Herbert Jacoby and Max Gordon listen to a singer audition inside the tony nightclub.

Interior of Blue Angel nightclub

1963 Shows

For what would end up being her last appearance at The Blue Angel, Streisand headlined with comedy team Stiller & Meara following her. (That's Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara — known nowadays as the parents of Ben Stiller ... who played Gay Focker in the Fockers movies.)

It's during these shows that Streisand's star power brought in celebrity audience members like Quincy Jones and Barbra's future Hollywood agent, Sue Mengers.

The Barbra Streisand Album would be released in February 1963, and Streisand took to the road to promote it.

Below: Streisand's New York cabaret and public dance hall employee identification card, required by law in order for her to perform at venues like The Blue Angel. New York City licensed cabaret performers in 1963.

Streisand's cabaret ID card and ads for the Blue Angel


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