Review #1: ‘Don’t Rain on My Parade: 75 Years of Streisand’ at The American Pops

0
6

Streisand came to DC for a quick pre-inauguration visit. Well almost, but not quite. Well, maybe my first sentence is a little bit of a “fake news” headline.

I am writing about a blissful, musically polished, bright one performance event with Luke Frazier the American Pops Orchestra, the ever-bubbly celeb Fran Drescher and oodles of way awesome talented Broadway and local singing talent.

Together all these forces made an easily demure Lisner Auditorium come very much alive before a large diverse audience at the forefront of DC area Barbra Streisand worship. Everyone was there to celebrate 75 years (jeez) of Barbra Streisand called Don’t Rain on My Parade: 75 Years of Streisand.

Even more, Don’t Rain on My Parade: 75 Years of Streisand was simply a terrific way to interrupt any recent dark gloom and to provide carry-over positive energy with rich music and heavenly voices full of love and longing presented with pizazz, personality and humor.

Conductor Luke Frazier. Photo courtesy of The American Pops.

Now, before specifics about the evening, if you are unfamiliar with Frazier and the APO – it was founded in 2015. Frazier’s aim is:

to breathe life into orchestral pops programming and inspiring new audience to discover the wealth of material in the Great American Songbook in dynamic ways.

To me that translates that Frazier and the APO have the Millennial spirit of disrupting the old ways. They want to reach-out to those who may have turned away from the string-dominated orchestra or those who never even considered a non-electric orchestra as one of their entertainment choices -given all the choices in this digital age.

Fran Drescher. Photo courtesy of her facebok page.

So now on with the show: Don’t Rain On My Parade: 75 Years of Streisand.

Fran Drescher hosted the evening with aplomb and self-deprecating humor. She not only introduced each of the seven singers and nearly 20 numbers – but enthusiastically “dished” with a high-wattage smile about her divorce and her single life status. She also spoke of her battle with cervical cancerasking each audience member to take care of themselves.

The evening’s program was powered by the rich, lush, fine sound of the APO effortlessly conducted by Frazier with a ‘smooth baton.’ The APO includes violin, viola, cello, bass, harp, guitar, trumpet, trombone, horns. flute, clarinet, percussion and piano. I hate to pick out one instrument for mention, the sounds of the cello on this evening just struck me deeply as an instrument that vibrated love and pain.

The scrumptious singing talents included Broadway’s super talents:

Laura Osnes; Amber Iman; Will and Anthony NunziataLindsay Mendez; Lucia Spina; and DC area’s very own Bayla Whitten.

Choosing the many accomplished musical numbers is not easy task.  So, here are my favorites:

Lindsay Mendez singing to the rafters bringing wild applause the evening’s opening medley of “Don’t’ Rain on My Parade/Before The Parade Passes By.”

Laura Osnes for her cute rendition of “Sam, You Made the Pants Too Long” and later her delicate, willowly take on “What Matters Most.”

Amber Iman’s resolute, brave “Cry Me a River” and then her rich-with-inner-strength, unsappy “Evergreen.” Iman by merely crossing her arms against her chest or with a steely look – was withering.

Lucia Spina’s brassy take on “When in Rome” that reached the Lisner’s back rows.

The Nunziata Brothers’ harmony for “New York State of Mind” (and this from a Billy Joel lover’s’ take on that anthem) and their joyful duet of “Get Happy/Happy Days Are Here Again”

Bayla Whitten’s simply staggering plaintive, emotionally connected rendition of “Papa Can You Hear Me.” It was as if she was speaking to someone in Heaven. And she was flawless with “On a Clear Day.”

Marvin Hamlisch and Barbra Streisand. Photo courtesy of Liz Smith.

One thing I must note about each of the singers and their musical numbers.  Each had an outstanding ability to hold the last phrases of a song in complete unison with the APO playing the last notes. These were truly priceless performances.

There was a beautiful performance of “The Way We Were” by APO harpist Kate Rogers. It brought back many memories, especially one that was by the composer of this Oscar-winning classic – Marvin Hamlisch. Barbra Streisand made the song hers, but Hamlisch wrote the music and Alan and Marilyn Bergman the lyrics, and I hope that my generation and generations to come will never forget the name of Marvin Hamlisch.

Years ago, not long after the movie The Way We Were was released, I was with a small group with Marvin Hamlisch. He discussed the song “The Way We Were.” Then he projected the title scene without the song; just 4 minutes of dead air with flickering silent images. The time seemed like it was going on forever. Then he projected the same 4 minutes films snippet with sound and his music and the lyrics and the scene just popped to life. It was a lesson I carry with me whenever I write about musical theater or music. So here it is for you to play with the sound off and then with the sound on:

Let me end his way. While I originally came with my wife to take in highlights of the Streisand songbook to sense how they may have “aged,” I left with a deep appreciation for all the composers and lyricists who helped give voice to Streisand. Even more, I came away as a fan for the Broadway and DC area talent that had tackled extraordinary songs thought “owned” by this icon. What was so exciting was how they each made each iconic song his or her own – making each of them exciting by being true to themselves.

So how did the audience react? There was a long standing ovation for Frazier, the APO musicians, the seven singers, and Drescher, who appeared genuinely moved. As the audience filed out of the Lisner Lobby to leave into the January cold, there were all chipper smiles ready for anything the real world had for them.

Running Time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.

American Pops Orchestra: Don’t Rain on My Parade: 75 Years of Barbra Streisand was performed for one – night only, on January 13, 2017 at 8 pm, at George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium – 730 21st Street NW, in Washington, DC. For more information on The American Pops Orchestra, go to their website.

______

  Song List for Don’t Rain on My Parade: 75 Years of Streisand.

“Don’t’ Rain on My Parade/Before The Parade Passes By”

“Evergreen”

“When in Rome”

“Sam, You Made the Pants Too Long”

“New York State of Mind”

“A Piece of Sky”

“How Does The Wine Taste”

“My Man”

“I Stayed Too Long at The Fair”

The Way We Were”

“Cry Me A River”

“On a Clear Day”

“What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life”

“Papa Can You Hear Me”

“Get Happy/Happy Days are Here Again”

“What Matter Most”

“People”