As the first of the TV specials offered on the elaborate box set, "Barbra Streisand: The Television Specials", released last November, this disc is being released separately for those who do not want to fork over the dollars for all five specials. As an investment, this is indeed the best of the bunch if only for the fact that this is Streisand at her purest and most eager to impress. That she succeeds so brilliantly is a key component of her legend. Signed to a long-term contract with CBS to produce hour-long variety shows, an almost extinct format nowadays, Streisand was all of 22 in this CBS special first broadcast in April 1965. At that point of her career, her notoriety was limited to a handful of best-selling albums, a few dazzling TV appearances on variety and talk shows, and her successful Broadway run in "Funny Girl".
Filmed in crisp black-and-white, the program is divided into three distinct parts. With the creative transitional use of "I'm Late" from Disney's "Alice in Wonderland", the first segment cleverly shows her growing up from childhood through numbers as diverse as "Make Believe" and "I'm Five". Opening with a comic monologue about Pearl from Istanbul, the second part moves on location to Manhattan's chic Bergdorf Goodman's where she is elegantly costumed in a series of glamorous outfits while singing Depression-era songs like "I've Got Plenty of Nuthin'" and "The Best Things in Life Are Free" with comic irony. Back to basics, the third segment is a straight-ahead concert which opens with a torchy version of "When the Sun Comes Out", includes a "Funny Girl" medley, and ends with her classic, melancholic take on "Happy Days Are Here Again" over the ending credits. Also included is the brief introduction she taped in 1986 when the special was first released on VHS. For those who know Streisand only for her pricey concert tickets and political fundraising, this is a genuine eye-opener into why she is so revered now.