REVIEW: LIZA SINGS STREISAND *****
Cadogan Hall, London By Alan Clyde – 19 October 2017
From the moment Liza Pulman strides confidently onto the stage at London’s Cadogan Hall and launches into ‘You’ve Got a Friend,’ it’s obvious that here is a performer who oozes class. Many will know her from her days as one-third of ‘Fascinating Aida’, the long-running satirical British musical comedy group, yet as this evening celebrating the career of Barbra Streisand shows, there is far more to her than that.
Backed by a superb six piece band, the Stardust Ensemble, led by MD Joseph Atkins, ‘Liza Sings Streisand’ is not an impersonation but rather a respectful and well-researched tribute to a singer and actress who has remained at the top of her game for over fifty years.
What is immediately evident is that Pulman knows her stuff. Quips about nose jobs apart, this is no Steven Brinberg style send-up. Pulman is a genuine, bona-fide fan and it comes across strongly in her thrilling selection of songs, combining crowd-pleasers with lesser-known gems from Streisand’s back catalogue. One would have understood her forgoing less-familiar fare in favour of a greatest hits package but that’s not what this show is about and it’s an evening which is all the better for it.
There is a strong emphasis on Streisand’s ‘60’s repertoire as Pulman unearths early delights such as ‘A Sleeping Bee,’ ‘Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf,’ and ‘Keeping Out of Mischief Now’, all from Barbra’s 1963 debut album, together with Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg’s ‘Down With Love’ and a glorious take on ‘I Stayed Too Long at the Fair’ from the follow-up set released later that year.
Streisand’s brief forays into Broadway musical theatre are represented with ‘Miss Marmelstein’ from ‘I Can Get It For You Wholesale’ and ‘Second Hand Rose’ from ‘Funny Girl,’ both showing off Pulman’s beautiful voice and excellent comic timing. It’s no surprise when she informs the audience that she originally trained as an opera singer – her range is extraordinary, hitting top notes with apparent ease and displaying a gorgeous, smoky lower register on songs like ‘What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?’
The set is punctuated with well-chosen anecdotes about Streisand’s career – her first recordings aged thirteen, early years singing at Greenwich Village’s exclusive Bon Soir nightclub and her complex relationship with her mother. A touching personal memory is related of Pulman’s own mother auditioning for ‘Yentl’ and, failing to get the part, being astonished to receive a personal message from Streisand thanking her and hoping that their paths would cross again in the future.
‘Yentl’ is represented, not as perhaps expected with ‘Papa Can You Hear Me?’ or ‘A Piece of Sky,’ but with a stunning interpretation of ‘The Way He Makes Me Feel’ – as Pulman freely admits, with such a vast back catalogue of songs to choose from it would be impossible to please everyone.
‘Yentl’ aside, Streisand’s later recordings from the Eighties onwards are barely touched upon, but her 70’s repertoire is well-represented by a cover of Billy Joel’s ‘New York State of Mind’ from the ‘Streisand Superman’ album, a bossa nova reimagining of ‘On a Clear Day and the hits ‘The Way We Were’ and ‘Evergreen’.
Other highlights include a cover of Randy Newman’s ‘I’ll Be Home’ from the ‘Stoney End’ album and a stunning new take on ‘You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,’ stripped of the schmaltz of the Neil Diamond original.
As Pulman ends the evening with the iconic ‘Happy Days Are Here Again’ and Streisand’s signature song, Jule Styne and Bob Merrill’s ‘People’, the whole audience are on their feet and seldom has a standing ovation been better-earned.
‘Liza Sings Streisand’ is on tour until November 23rd. Catch it if you can – it’s a superb evening’s entertainment and a fitting showcase for perhaps the finest female singer of her generation.
Read the Review online HERE