With their clean digital sound, these discs improve on earlier video versions and turn Barbra Streisand’s factory-whistle singing voice into an instrument so formidable it threatens to blow out your speakers. Whether she’s belting out Jule Styne-Bob Merrill ballads as troubled comic Fanny Brice or dispensing Jerry Herman tunes as matchmaker Dolly Levi, the lush stereo mixes draw you in — even as they underscore what a lousy lip-syncher Streisand is.
Visually, the Funny Girl disc is just as vivid, with a black-banded wide-screen image showing off the Ziegfeld spectacle Streisand so adroitly deflates. But who put the squeeze on Hello, Dolly!? For some reason the frame is compressed, girdled in from the sides so that everyone looks improbably thin. Fortunately, the big production numbers from director Gene Kelly and choreographer Michael Kidd burst with so much energy and invention that you almost don’t mind the distortion. B+