NY Music Review By Joel Benjamin
Alternating between adoration and campy gossip, Simply Streisand at 54 Below gathered four brilliant singers and a smooth, well informed host and wound up being an entertaining and—dare I say it?—informative program. A video montage of La Streisand’s career induced awe and laughter. Phil Geoffrey Bond, 54 Below’s special programmer, MC’d, using her albums (the Second Album, People, On a Clear Day, etc.) to pace the program, providing videos and hilarious takes on Streisand’s notoriously prickly personality.
Carole J. Bufford gave a bluesy feel to “Anyplace I Hang My Hat Is Home” (Arlen/Mercer) and “Down With Love” (Arlen/Harburg) while taking “My Man” (Jacques Charles/Channing Pollock/Albert Willemetz/Maurice Yvain) from one sung by a needy masochist to a woman who is just plain fed up, singing a rarely heard second verse. Ms. Bufford has a way of turning a phrase on a dime, using her range and her acting to make songs live in new ways.
Lucia Spina sang “Gotta Move” (Peter Matz) as a tense exclamation of discontent and gave “Come Back to Me” (Lane/Lerner) and earthy, urban feel. Her “Funny Girl” (Styne/Merrill) was a quiet meditation with rueful overtones.
Natalie Douglas subdued her powerful vocal cords for a thoughtful “The Way We Were” (Hamlisch/Bergmans) and was heartbreaking in “Suppertime” (Berlin) despite singing this song of despair in a posh boîte. She started “People” (Styne/Merrill) in a childlike voice, but soon had a glint in her eye as she soared to the end, giving Streisand a run for her money.
Petite Christina Bianco, well-known for her exquisitely exact vocal impersonations, sang “On a Clear Day” (Lane/Lerner) as a homage to Streisand, careful not to go overboard on any of her iconic tics. She also sang—in her own strong voice—two songs from Funny Girl. She fairly bounced putting “Don’t Rain On My Parade” across and got the torchy, heartbreak of “The Music that Makes Me Dance” (both by Styne/Merrill) which was the penultimate number of this program which concluded with a heartbreaking video of the young Streisand on the Garry Moore Show singing “Happy Days Are Here Again” (Ager/Yellen). Seeing this number again, the famous one where she removes her jewelry one piece at a time to pay for drinks, was to see her extraordinariness in its freshest state. It was beautiful.
The Barry Levitt Trio (Mr. Levitt, Jerome James on drums and Jon Burr on bass) gave brilliant accompaniment throughout while Mr. Bond’s wry comments and videos gave the show a solid format.
There will be other shows in the Streisand series plus 54 Below’s wonderful musical theater series, 54 Sings.
Simply Streisand at 54 Below – June 15, 2014
254 West 54th St., between Broadway and 8th Ave.
New York, NY
Reservations and Information: 646-476-3551 or www.54below.com