Color her Barbra

Elizabeth Lolarga - The Philippine Star
Color her Barbra

Barbra Streisand’s Netflix special, Barbra: The Music…The Mem’ries…The Magic, is considered one of the best concerts she has ever done

MANILA, Philippines — She is the world’s ballad queen, bar none. Who hasn’t conducted their romance to her The Way We Were (theme from the movie with the same title), walked down the aisle to, say, Evergreen or conceived their children to her other songs?

Very few can hold a candle to the Jewish girl from Brooklyn who rose to become a great singer, actor, songwriter, director, producer and activist. On her fireplace mantle one imagines the statues of the Grammy, Emmy and Oscar standing cheek by jowl.

So when Netflix announced it would stream her live concert Barbra: The Music…The Mem’ries…The Magic in November and release an album this month, one sought the family techie to set up the TV set for the more than hour-long show and readied oneself for a very good time.

In showbiz, Streisand, astonishingly in good shape at 75 years old, is known as a control freak, a perfectionist. She has done her own makeup as early as her first film, Funny Girl. It turned out that her own makeup was better than the professional makeup artist’s so she won that small battle.

She is said to “customize her show(s)” as a way of keeping herself interesting. She knows the best side of her face. Ever her Queen Nefertiti-like nose has become her trademark. Another battle won there when she defied advisers who told her to undergo cosmetic surgery to chisel down the nose’s size to conform to Hollywood norms of beauty. She is on good terms with cinematographers and lighting designers who can light up that best side.

But what matters most, to quote Antonio Banderas, one of several singing actors who partnered with her in the album Encore: Movie Partners Sing Broadway is that “voice of Streisand. It’s just velvet.”

Like in a previous filmed live concert Timeless, the set is simple — a table with a teapot and a vase with two salmon-colored flowers on it. For certain songs, the backdrop is dark; in others, there were videos or photos flashed on a wide screen.

In song after song, Streisand was met with spontaneous standing ovations and shouts of “Love you, Barbra!” Her rapport was easy and intimate despite the humongous, stadium-size of her venue. She disclosed how she was writing her autobiography before her memory goes all “misty and water-colored.” She’s happy with her book contract because she again was given full control.

She harked back in her concert to the social unrest of the ‘70s with images of the Vietnam War through the Carole King composition Being At War With Each Other. There were photos also showing the continuing violence against blacks.

Her Pure Imagination, accompanied by videos of fields of flowers, bees feeding off flowers’ pollen, dolphins and whales swimming and oceans teeming with fish, was her way of calming her anxiety about climate change.

And then there were the beloved ballads like You Don’t Bring Me Flowers, a song which she said “has been good for florists.” Throughout her singing, the camera sometimes cut to show couples holding hands or male partners caressing their girlfriends’ or wives’ hair or a woman wiping off tears from her eyes.

Before she segued to Papa, Can You Hear Me? from Yentl, the story of a woman who didn’t want to marry but instead wanted an education, Streisand explained why she loved directing movies. It brought out the boss in her, the one that tells people what to do, “and that suits me fine…I like the challenge of telling a story.”

Dramatic, too, was the spliced black and wide video of the late British entertainer Anthony Newley singing a duet with her of Who Can I Turn To?

One couldn’t help agreeing with her guest, actor-singer Jamie Foxx, who described Streisand’s voice as “the most beautiful and blessed.” He led chants of “Barbra! Barbra!” before confessing to doing impersonations of her in his youth. Their duet of Climb Every Mountain underlined their earlier dialogue that “if you can imagine it, you can achieve it, but it may take some work.”

Although her Happy Days Are Here Again, a song she had sung for three US Presidents (John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Bill Clinton), was supposed to end the concert, the audience members, jumping, raising their arms, shouting and clamoring for more, refused to let her go. She obliged with Jingle Bells done to alternately fast and slow tempo, With One More Look At You from the movie, A Star Is Born, and Rodgers-Hart’s oldie but goodie I Didn’t Know What Time It Was.

If you must be a couch potato this season to avoid the traffic bottlenecks, put this Netflix special at the top of your must-watch list. Then feel like that “one person, one very special person” in Streisand’s signature song People.

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