Review: Streisand Heads Back to Broadway with “Encore”

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Barbra Streisand’s latest album, “Encore: Movie Partners Sing Broadway,” goes on sale on Aug. 26. Credit: Russell James

Not able to snag tickets to Barbra Streisand’s nine-city August concert tour?

Well, on Friday, Aug. 26, her latest album, “Encore: Movie Partners Sing Broadway,” will be available both online and in stores.
A follow-up to her multiplatinum “The Broadway Album” (1985) and “Back to Broadway (1993),” “Encore” pairs Streisand with an interesting array of performers best known for their film roles.
Some seem to be natural choices, like Tony Award-winner Hugh Jackman (“X-Men”), Tony nominee Patrick Wilson (“The Full Monty,” “Oklahoma!”) and even Emmy Award-winner Anne Hathaway (“Les Miserables”).
Who knew comedian Melissa McCarthy knew how to sing? And, it’s hard to imagine Streisand had ever heard Daisy Ridley (“Star Wars”) except for her recently discovered star power. Then there’s the curious selection of Jamie Foxx to accompany Streisand in perhaps the most serious selection on the album, “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” from “The Sound of Music.”
There is one track, “Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me),” sung a la Natalie Cole’s “Unforgettable” with a recording of British singer, actor and songwriter Anthony Newley (“Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”) who died in 1979.
As if diehard Streisand fans will really care, but the results are mixed.
Like its predecessors, this album features lush, vibrant orchestrations that never disappoint. This album also serves as a reminder of many beautiful show tunes that have slipped from the repertoire.
“Pure Imagination” from “Willy Wonka” is a nostalgic surprise, sung with velvety-voiced crooner Seth MacFarlane (“Ted,” “Family Guy”), best known for bringing life to potty-mouthed stuffed animals and lumbering animated characters.
Other pleasuring tracks feature Alec Baldwin (“30 Rock”) joining Streisand in “The Best Thing That Ever Has Happened,” from “Road Show,” and Chris Pine (“Star Trek,” “Into the Woods”) in an inventive medley of “I’ll Be Seeing You” and “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face.”
The banter that set up Stephen Sondheim’s “Putting it Together” from “Sunday in the Park with George” so well in the debut Broadway album returns in nearly every track and quickly becomes a distraction to the music. Some of the “witty repartee” comes from the shows, much is clearly contrived, like the extended set-up to “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better,” between Streisand and McCarthy as actresses competing for the same role.
At 74 — can you believe it? — Streisand also seems loathe to tackle age-appropriate songs. Her voice has clearly matured, but she’s not a young starlet anymore. Remember, “Yentl?” And rumors continue to fly that her dream movie role is Mama Rose in a big screen remake of “Gypsy.” Make that “Grandmama” Rose. This becomes especially apparent in “At the Ballet,” as Streisand competes against 24-year-old Ridley and 33-year-old Hathaway for a spot in “A Chorus Line.”
Just imagine her tackling the standard for aging divas, Sondheim’s “I’m Still Here” from “Follies.” Streisand is certainly no relic, so perhaps there’s no rush, either. And, there is plenty of time for another Broadway album.
Barbra Streisand’s “Encore: Movie Partners Sing Broadway” ($9.99) will go on sale on the iTunes Store, Amazon.com and other retailers on Friday, Aug. 26.

 


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