If there’s such a thing as a $350 concert ticket that’s worth the money, this might be the one — at least for Barbra Streisand fans, who get a beautifully performed musical autobiography interspersed with personal insights, clips from many of her films and a couple of surprises. And compared to her MGM Grand shows, it’s a downright bargain.
Streisand says it’s her last tour; maybe it will be. The current string of Anaheim shows was postponed eight days by the star, who claimed a throat ailment. Maybe she had it; maybe, as others have unkindly speculated, she was (1 ) suffering from stage fright so close to home, or (2) suffering from the presence of those blocks of unsold seats that she kept making available at the last moment, ostensibly to keep scalpers from making a profit at her expense.
The specially carpeted Pond floor, a seeming self-indulgence, paid off, with the absorbent surface helping facilitate clear sound.
The show itself was pure Streisand, opening with a version of “As If We Never Said Goodbye” from “Sunset Boulevard” and closing with a triumphant “Somewhere” from “West Side Story.” In between were many of the expected numbers, including “People” and “The Way We Were,” and some probably unexpected ones, such as “Don’t Rain on My Parade” (from “Funny Girl”) and “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” (the first version, recorded without her hit single duet partner, Neil Diamond).
There were duets, all electronic, including one with herself during a medley of songs from “Yentl” and — affectingly — with Marlon Brando on “I’ll Know” from the film version of “Guys and Dolls.” In Alan and Marilyn Bergman’s reflective script, Streisand recalled idolizing young Brando as she saw him for the first time on screen in that picture.
Another section of the show found the star discussing life with offstage voices (Steven Susskind, Judith Gordon, Phil Austin) of three “analysts,” leading to a long montage of clips of Streisand in conversation with herself as shrink (from “Prince of Tides,” mainly) and patient (from “Nuts” and other pix).
The script was loose enough, though, to allow Streisand to acknowledge longtime mentor Ray Stark in Thursday’s audience, and to read a David Letterman-inspired Top 10 list of reasons she postponed these dates; among them, “No. 3 — I thought my concert tour needed more publicity,” and “No. 2 — It took me three days to read Dan Quayle’snew book, and four days to correct the spelling.”
Streisand was more political toward the show’s end, most effectively with a version of “Happy Days Are Here Again.” Sung slow and morose on her 1963 debut album, the song — still delivered at a leisurely tempo — was here reinforced with projected images conveying an optimism for the world under the Clinton administration.
Images were projected from time to time on several screens around the Pond, itself scaled down to 13,000 seats. The stage set began as an elegant, column-decorated room that she has said was inspired by a visit to Monticello; eventually the trappings disappeared to reveal a more traditional concert stage. Lighting was as excellent as the sound.
Perhaps Streisand will reconsider her vow that this is her final tour. If she does, maybe next time she’ll perform in venues designed for music, or at least at prices more suited to the Democrats she supports than the Republicans she plays to.