Review: ★★★★ Liza Pulman Sings Streisand at the Lyric, W1, Clive Davis The Times
March 19 2019, 5:00pm,
‘She brings a legend to life’ – Clive Davis, The Times
‘Pulman may look bright and beautiful and demure, but she knows how to wield a flick-knife.’ – Clive Davis, The Times
Pulman avoids a route march through Streisand’s greatest hits and from time to time reproduces the star’s phrasing with startling clarity
As much as Liza Pulman adores Barb, she can’t resist having fun at her expense from time to time
Do we need yet another tribute concert? Sometimes it feels as if artists paying homage to other artists are filling half the country’s theatres. If you want to hear the Beatles, Elvis, Judy Garland or just about any other VIP, alive or dead, you have a decent facsimile at your disposal. The Lyric Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue, for instance, normally plays host to a show celebrating that fallen idol Michael Jackson.
Still, don’t let the glut of impersonators deter you from going to hear Liza Pulman, better known as one third of the glorious satirical group Fascinating Aida. For one thing, Pulman isn’t interested in serving up note-for-note copies of Barbra Streisand’s ample back catalogue. And being a member of FA, she can be relied on not to be slavishly reverential; much as she adores Barb, she can’t resist having fun at her expense from time to time. Jacko came in for a tweak as well and a bad-taste line about Donald Trump raised a few gasps in the stalls. Pulman may look bright and beautiful and demure, but she knows how to wield a flick-knife.
Compared with the blockbuster shows that Streisand brings to an arena such as the O2, this is a distinctly modest, no-frills production. There is no sprawling orchestra, only a breezily efficient sextet led by the pianist and arranger Joseph Atkins. It takes a little time to adjust to the stripped-down arrangements, but the lighter format gives Pulman more freedom and occasionally allows her to pay homage to the jazz guitar master Kenny Burrell and the like.
The last time I saw Streisand, a couple of years ago, I couldn’t help noticing that almost every word of her patter, down to the most innocuous chit-chat with guests, was scripted on an autocue. Impressive though her voice was, the performance often felt as if it had been pumped full of embalming fluid.
Pulman tells her story without embarking on a chronological route march through the greatest hits. From time to time, as at the beginning of Evergreen, she reproduces Streisand’s phrasing with startling clarity. For the most part, though, Pulman is content to shape her own lines. While she may be classically trained, she has an authentic, conversational presence; more Hampstead than Brooklyn, perhaps, yet she still brings a legend to life.
Box office: 0330 333 4812, April 1, 8, 15, then touring