For someone long missing in action from our TV screens, Barbra Streisand seems to have been making up for lost time in 1986.
Early in the year, HBO telecast a documentary about the making of the singer's "The Broadway Album," a couple of months ago VCR-equipped Streisand worshipers were treated to the video release of her first two '60s CBS specials, and now (Saturday at 10 p.m. and Wednesday at 11 p.m. on HBO) there's "Barbra Streisand: One Voice," her first full-length TV concert in 20 years, and her first public performance in six years.
It's a triumph.
"One Voice" was taped at a fund-raising event held outdoors at Streisand's Malibu estate on Sept. 6. We get a few minutes of celebrity arrivals and some excerpts from Robin Williams' introductory humor, then it's just pure Streisand--her awesome vocal instrument, incredible note-sculpture and emotional connection all in top form and superbly captured by gimmickless camera work.
Streisand's dedication of this show to the causes of safe energy, the environment and human rights may nettle some viewers, but it's good to see a show with both great pleasures and high purpose, smoothly woven together.
The singer's set is hard to fault--except perhaps for the fact that its best moments come early and such segments as two duets with Barry Gibb, however well done, can't compare to the exquisite sextet of songs leading off the performance: three Stephen Sondheim songs, plus "Evergreen" (taking on new meaning here), "People" and "Over the Rainbow."
Only a few synthesizer-equipped musicians back Streisand, but the effect is tasteful and convincingly orchestral. "Just eight guys and a big electric bill," as the singer remarks.
"One Voice" is perhaps the ultimate showcase for Streisand's immense (if sometimes squandered) talents. It deserves a place, at least, alongside her first CBS special, "My Name Is Barbra" in any collection of memorable TV concerts.
Twenty-one years later Streisand proves she's still capable of magnificent vocal interpretations. If her best singing has sent chills down your spine, prepare for that old tingle.