Review: ‘Barbra Streisand: The Concert’

Devotees of Barbra Streisand not fortunate enough to catch her live concert performances during the recent tour were able to see what all the fuss was about during Sunday's HBO spec.

Devotees of Barbra Streisand not fortunate enough to catch her live concert performances during the recent tour were able to see what all the fuss was about during Sunday’s HBO spec.

The nearly two-hour telecast, which was pulled from her closing night appearance in July at the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, was a flawless translation of a taut live performance into an equally compelling TV show.

Streisand and company’s successful weaving of her pop nuggets, Broadway hits and her acting efforts was sure to have fans at home kvelling throughout the broadcast.

Viewers may also find it hard to understand exactly what Streisand feared so much that it kept her off the concert stage for nearly three decades.

Her voice was demonstrative of all the power, style and grace it embodies, and her stage presence — TelePrompters notwithstanding — appeared relaxed.

Technical achievements also took center stage as often as the singer, with pristine sound, top-notch staging and fluid direction all coming together.

But with an artist such as Streisand, whose penchant for perfection is legendary, one would expect nothing less.

The show’s first hour was so front-loaded with hits, including the 26-city tour opener, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “As If We Never Said Goodbye,” that it begged the question whether she could sustain the pace and quality for the second hour.

But by show’s end the answer was a resounding yes.

The show closer, “Somewhere,” was turned into a heat-seeking missile of a tune, tapping Streisand’s stellar high notes and vocal prowess.

Although her storytelling and musings from the psychiatrist’s couch could have become tedious in lesser hands, Streisand knew when she had made her point, and when to move on.

The fingerprints of Streisand the director were visible throughout the show, from set list to guest list, to the selection of film clips chronicling her career and tying into the musical theme of the moment, down to the final edit.

Musical major-domo Marvin Hamlisch deftly guided the 64-piece pickup orchestra and Streisand’s own band, and effectively interpreted the singer’s onstage movements into song and patter start and stop points.

But the broadcast was not without glitches.

While fans not linked to cable were able to listen to the radio simulcast (locally on KXEZ-FM), local cable failures caused a wave of customer complaints and overloaded switchboards at CVI and Century Cable offices.

Show’s direction, led by veteran helmer Dwight Hemion, picked shots from 10 cameras covering the action from every conceivable angle.

Hemion gave editor Bruce Moyer a wealth of top shots to pick from for the final edit — sources said the show was being edited almost up to post time — and the results are a show with all elements in sync, as the ratings numbers are sure to bear out.

Barbra Streisand: The Concert

(Sun. (21), 9-11 p.m., HBO)


Taped at the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim by J.E.G. Prods. in association with HBO. Executive producers, Martin Ehrlichman, Gary Smith; producers, Barbra Streisand, Dwight Hemion; director, Hemion; writers, Alan Bergman, Marilyn Bergman; lighting design, Peter Morse; production design, Marc Brickman, David George.


Editor, Bruce Moyer; sound, Bruce Jackson; video, Mark Sanford, Steve Berry; musical director, Marvin Hamlisch.


Band: John Robinson, Randy Waldman, Simon Franglen, Neil Stubenhaus, Lou Soloff, Lawrence Feldman, Scott Kooney, Brian Koonin, Norm Freeman Jr., Bill Hayes, Ralph Morrison.
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