Two Oscars. Eight Grammys. Four Emmys. Five Golden Globes. A Tony Award. A Directors Guild of America Award. Nine #1 albums – more than any other female – and topping the charts in five decades, a feat unmatched.
These impressive facts of course are the accomplishments of Barbra Streisand.
And how lucky can I get that Broadway’s premiere nightclub, 54 Below, is paying tribute to the star that was born Barbra Steisand Sunday, May 26 at 9:30pm on my last night in Manhattan.
Entitled, “Simply Streisand,” the show promises to be as thrilling as anything that 54 Below has done before. I’m sure Barbra herself would be proud – too bad she’s not in it.
In this celebration of all things Babs, some of Broadway and cabaret’s finest voices celebrate the music of a legend. With more than 45 best-selling albums, Barbra Streisand has stood the test of time like no other artist. Sunday you’ll hear an array of music from her catalogue, accompanied by a three piece band with narration from 54 Below’s own Director of Programming (and host of the popular “Sondheim Unplugged”) Phil Geoffrey Bond, who will fill the audience in on special bits of Striesand lore, history, assorted tales, and out and out gossip (from her penchant for perfection to her affair with Don Johnson). From her humble beginnings in the cabarets of Greenwich Village straight through to her mega-stardom, “Simply Streisand” seems to cover it all.
Barbra has certainly been in the limelight a lot in the past few years, considering most of today’s generation knows her as Grandma Focker. Not only did she take a lead in a movie, “The Guilt Trip,” which wasn’t the hit the studio hoped for but is doing well on DVD, but she returned to Brooklyn in a concert and is in serious talks to remake “Gypsy” and direct a movie about Margaret Bourke White. But Barbra has more of a history which will be explored in “Simply Streisand” but here’s a prep course for even the biggest of fans.
Streisand School For Beginners:
For those who only know Barbra as Mrs. Focker, you need to watch:
1. Funny Girl
2. The Way We Were
3. What’s Up Doc
5. A Star is Born
Those five movies will give you a great mix of Barbra as a singer, director and actress. You can see her great comic timing in “What’s Up, Doc?” and feel her heart break in “The Way We Were” and “Yentl.” And to see her at the top of her popularity, there’s “A Star is Born.”
2. The Way We Were
3. No More Tears (Enough is Enough)
4. Stoney End
All of the above may not be Barbra’s best songs but it certainly will show you her range and variety. Sure “Evergreen” (which she wrote) and “The Way We Were” are by far her best singles but “No More Tears” and “Stoney End” show other sides of Streisand that some may have forgotten. “Memory” should have been a big hit and is on the list for her beautiful performance and it’s from Broadway’s “Cats.”
Advanced Barbra Education:
For her many existing fans, they might want to see some of Barbra’s overlooked performances:
1. Up the Sandbox – not a hit by any means but the Walter Mitty storytelling mixed with contemporary issues play a backseat to Barbra’s subdued and heartfelt performance of a housewife who feels she has lost her own identity.
2. All Night Long – this is topical now as Bette Midler’s current play is practically about twhen Barbra takes a role in her manager’s husband’s movie and it’s a big flop. Barbra was paid $4 million her supporting role which was very high at the time and the movie made $4.1 million. Her soft spoken speaking voice and terrible singing voice (yes terrible…it’s called acting) make the movie worth a view.
3. On a Clear Day You Can See Forever – revived on Broadway last year, Streisand is luminous in the flashback sequences in beautiful Cecil Beaton gowns and her British accent is impeccable. Alas, the American reincarnated modern character isn’t as memorable.
1. Coronet Man – from the stage musical and not the film of “Funny Girl” that is a jazzy number that can “show stop” even today.
2. Ask Yourself Why – from the overlooked “What About Today?” CD, this song is beautiful and political and still valid about morals and values.
3. When I Dream – from “Emotion” this is Barbra showing she’s got soul.
4. Simple Man – As plain as the title suggests, but it shows Barbra doesn’t need gimmicks. Find it on “Butterfly.”
5. The Summer Knows – a great melody from the movie “Summer of 42” in which Barbra’s friends the Bergman’s add wonderful and seductive lyrics.
6. Honey, Can I Put On Your Clothes? – who would think Barbra has so many sensual songs but this really takes the cake – from “Songbird”.
7. As If We Never Said Goodbye – from “Back to Broadway” this song proves Barbra should do the movie “Sunset Blvd.” and if she does it soon I think Hugh Jackman is the perfect co-star. Is anyone in Hollywood listening?
8. The Best Thing You’ve Ever Done – recorded in 1970 but not put on a record until “The Way We Were” this is more a Broadway belting tune not to everyone’s taste but I love it.
9. Love Comes from the Most Unexpected Places – Barbra’s rich in voice in this “Superman” gem.
10. Supper Time – ending as we began – with a jazzier Barbra with this tune form her “People” album.
Uber Fan Bonus:
If you want everything that is Barbra, you should be on the look out for “The Owl and the Pussycat” video with the F-word still in tact (the DVD has cut it out). And, there are many bootleg songs around of unused Broadway tunes, B-side singles and rejected tracks. You should seek out her French, Italian and Spanish versions of “Evergreen” as well as “Home” from “The Wiz” or “On My Own” from “Les Miserables.” Fans may also seek out her “One Day” song from the Earth Day special, dance remix tracks from “Night of My Life”and the CD country single “If You Ever Leave Me” with bonus tracks.
Or if you don’t have time to do any of this now, then come to “Simply Streisand” and watch the professionals salute the artist of our time, Barbra Streisand. Get $20-30 tickets (plus a $25 food and beverage minimum) at www.54below.com