10/10 Review for “One Night Only – Barbra Streisand and Quartet at the Village Vanguard”.
May 06, 2010, 10:00am

By Pat Cerasaro — Broadwayworld.com

SCORE: 10/10. Barbra Streisand is a performer of the highest caliber, able to imbue a performance with the highest level of actorly commitment, technical precision and dramatic finesse. She is as equally skilled as an actress as she is a singer and therefore is the ideal interpreter of the greatest material because she, herself, is so possessive of greatness. The only word left out of this admitted deification of the chanteuse is perhaps the most important descriptive term I have left out – and, at four letters, the most provocative – the one which says the most by saying the least about her: Star.

Streisand is a star, a fact she effortlessly exudes and demonstrates in her God-given demeanor alone, whether she is playing in front of an audience of 120 or 12,000 – or, in the case of her concert telecasts, 120 million – but it is in those most personal moments, the oft-sung-about “wee small hours of the morning” – or, in this concert’s case, evening – that the multi-talented legend makes us rediscover, all over again, why she is the very best of the best and has been for decades. As this Village Vanguard concert proves, she may be the absolute most incandescently appealing and introspectively alluring that she has ever been in a recorded performance, whether you are just listening to the exquisitely brilliant album containing most of this material – 2009’s #1 best-seller LOVE IS THE ANSWER – or the soundtrack album to this concert itself, or – and best of the best of the best of all – the DVD/Blu-Ray, just released.

From a rich and exuberant “Here’s To Life” to the intentionally somnolent and silky-smooth murmurs of “Gentle Rain”, to the plaintive and passionate lushness of “Wee Small Hours of the Morning”, we know from the first few songs of this exceptional performance that Streisand is at the top of her game and in the very best voice imaginable. “Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most”, perhaps, but last Fall Barbra Streisand was giving one of the finest performances of her career. Never is this more clear than in the dramatic centerpiece that comes next – and the first song to receive a mid-performance standing ovation of the night – “If You Go Away”. Singing in English or French, an art-song or a show-stopper, Streisand calculates and navigates with the skill of a master. And the results are masterful – dare I say some of a masterpiece. “Nobody’s Heart (Belongs To Me)” takes down the drama a few notches, but the unshakeable commitment to wringing the material of every last nuance, whether in the phrasing of the lyrics themselves or the always-elegantly chosen vocalizations lingers still. The concert proper ends with a trio of songs Streisand has most surprisingly rarely sung, yet her ability to set fire to these three veritable warhorses produces the most brightly blazing torch-song singing on the level to rival that of Judy Garland and Rosemary Clooney themselves. These songs, each by a master of the American Songbook – Jule Styne, Richard Rodgers and Harold Arlen, respectively – are the fulfillment of the unspoken promise made whenever one purchases a Barbra Streisand album, DVD, Blu-Ray or MP3: entertainment at its best. Well, for that – and so much more – look no further than “Make Someone Happy” (the song from which the album title LOVE IS THE ANSWER is taken), “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” and “My Funny Valentine”. No other performer is as bewitching and bewildering as Streisand, no valentine greater than her mere deigning to sing a song to its greatest power for our sheer enjoyment and the authors‘ resulting rightful elation, and no audience happier and more ebullient than when Streisand takes the stage. And rightfully so, for these reasons and so many more. It is all here on DVD to see, experience, enjoy and relish time and time again.

Using only a small jazz combo – not unlike the second, and perhaps slightly superior disc of the deluxe edition of LOVE IS THE ANSWER – playing expert charts, in the first few moments alone when Streisand takes the stage we can see, hear, feel and sense why she has endured for more than forty years since she first stepped foot on that teeny, tiny stage in front of us now as barely more than teenager. But, the talent was there – and, what talent! From the first song to the last, this DVD is a true master class of song performance with each and every lyric and note attended to with the most delicate and surgical precision. Also, the in-between rapport is quite funny, ingratiating, endearing and illuminating as well. As if the performance of these songs weren’t enough of an ennobling joy to experience in and of itself, the acoustics of this performance preservation are absolutely crystal-clear and capture everything down to the smallest detail and display it all with an ease of listenability and an attractive surround sound mix, something all-too-rare on concert DVDs. Furthermore, on top of all of that, these are some of the best songs she has ever sung – and some of the best songs ever written, the welcomed obscurity and a few favorites weaved effortlessly into the tapestry of the hour-long evening which is mostly new material for Ms. Streisand – not including, of course, those near-requisite but oh-so-rapturous encores!

Speaking of encores, these are some of the strongest renditions of these songs in years, particularly in the case of the throwback-70s-style version of “The Way We Were” in which Streisand becomes a twenty-one-year-old wide-eyed activist before our very eyes, once again embodying her character in that classic film. Whereas many performers could be resting on their laurels at this august point, instead, Streisand is stretching and growing in surprising and affecting new ways not only in her material-selection, but also in her performance style and stage set-up. She’s up-close and personal as never before, and aren’t we all the more lucky for it! Has she ever acted a song with such flawless conviction, searing pathos and heart-breaking phrasing and intonation as this “If You Go Away”, written by Jacques Brel (of the off-Broadway staple JACQUES BREL IS ALIVE AND WELL AND LIVING IN PARIS)? Has she ever had more misty-eyed disaffection, melting into despair and finally coming up for air revealing a sense of optimism – yet not without a tinge of disenchantment – as she does in the Bernstein ballad to end all ballads that ends this concert, “Some Other Time” (from ON THE TOWN, written with Comden & Green). Lastly, to crib from a question in the Oscar-winning song she wrote that queries, “Has she ever been so evergreen?” And, most of all, has Streisand ever seemed so at-ease and comfortable, establishing a winning rapport with the expectedly rapt audience. It is plain to see Sarah Jessica Parker, James Brolin, Bill & Hilary Clinton, Marilyn & Alan Bergman and Richard Jay-Alexander among many others who were granted the utmost privilege of partaking in this landmark event commemorating an unmatched career on stage, screen and seemingly everywhere else under the sun (and moon). Anyone who appreciates artistry as expressed through acting in music and lyrics at its absolute finest is well-advised to acquire this exemplary DVD as soon as possible. La chanteuse, l’activiste, l’actrice – La Streisand. To all (and all concerned): Barbravissima!

Order it now: http://www.sonymusicdigital.com/barbra-streisand/pages/5483938/?current_country=US