The last time Michael and I saw Barbra was in Phoenix. She was in town filming the remake of “A Star is Born” with co-star Kris Kristofferson, directed by the legendary Frank Pierson. Word was that things were a bit rocky between Kristofferson and Streisand, or maybe it was just hype to build interest for the film, but we decided we would check it out. At the time, Michael was still covering film for the Arizona Republic; I was editing a downtown business weekly.
Michael learned that the production was planning to shoot an indoor concert scene at Arizona State University’s Grady Gammage Auditorium. They needed extras to sit in the seats and be the audience during filming. Michael made arrangements through the production’s press contact for us to among them. We took our places somewhere in the middle of the main floor seating, holding candles that were given to us as we entered.
Gammage seats a little more than 3,000 people. But for this film, only about half the seats would be filled. The rest would remain dark and out of camera. An undercurrent of excited anticipation swept through the “audience” as filming began. The shots were set up and the assistant director called for “Quiet on the Set, please.” A hush settled over the 1,500 seated extras. Then Barbra stepped onto the stage and took her place for the scene. There she was. Onstage. Live.
I was as struck by her presence as was everyone else around me. After a few takes, the crew stopped to set up for the next shot. There’s a lot of ‘hurry up and wait’ that goes on during filming and at the moment, we were in the ‘wait’ phase. The ‘audience’ extras would have to ‘wait’ as well. Then a most incredible thing happened.
Streisand stepped up to the edge of the stage, took a mic and addressed the audience. She must have known that there would be a long delay between shots and, as a co-producer, prepared for it. I honestly don’t remember where the music came from but the next thing I know, Streisand’s singing. She sang only two or three songs but one of them was what is probably still her “signature” song–“People” from the musical “Funny Girl.” And yes, I was pinching myself along with everyone else in the audience, maybe even the crew too.
She had us breathless. It was, what might be considered “an intimate” concert. Just us, the 1,500 extras and crew and Barbra.
That was then. This was now. Or last night. In Vancouver, B.C.’s Rogers Arena. It was only her 88th live concert performance since 1963. And it was her first ever in Vancouver.
There were a few more people with us in the audience this time, about 10,500 more. And this time, the concert wasn’t free, but it was elegant, classy and demonstrated that this Broadway and film star’s voice is as silky and rich as ever. Even at age 70, her phrasing, dynamic and tone control is unmatched. The performance was part of her “Back to Brooklyn” tour which opened in Philly followed by two shows in her hometown of Brooklyn.
The evening’s repertoire was a mix of standards, musical melodies and her ever-popular “Evergreen” from that production of “A Star is Born.” She also performed “People” once again and this time, “The Way We Were”, my favorite of the evening.It was a night of nostalgia, filled with family photos and video and family themselves as son, Jason Gould, and younger sister, Roslyn Kind, each joined her onstage. Trumpeter Chris Botti paired up with her for some stunning duets of voice and brass. The very young Italian trio, Il Volo, and violinist Caroline Campbell also shared in a few numbers to audience acclaim. She offered a touching tribute to close friend and composer Marvin Hamlisch and to composer Jules Styne.
Mostly though, it was a nod to her ‘roots’ made even more memorable perhaps because while she stood onstage in Vancouver singing, post-tropical storm Sandy was sweeping through her ‘hometown’, giving her opening remarks even more poignancy: “I left Brooklyn, but Brooklyn never left me.”