Oh Barbra. Barbra Joan Streisand. How many years have I admired and adored you? Last night my dreams came true when I was among the 12,000 worshipful fans to see you perform in your Back to Brooklyn concert tour that opened in Philadelphia. That was me in Section 212, Row 11, the one with clasped hands and glistening eyes mouthing the lyrics. You didn’t notice? Maybe because we all looked that way?
Not that we were all the same. There were gray heads and color-treated heads, 20-somethings in stiletto boots and couples arm-in-arm. You had us wrapped around your famously long-fingernailed finger.
Starting with the photo montage that opened the show: photos of you as a little girl in Brooklyn, a teenager at Erasmus High, a young singer on the Ed Sullivan Show and then a Broadway star. You charmed us with your stories about Brooklyn, and noted similarities to South Philly (“You have cheese steaks; we have cheese blintzes”). I can assure you that Brooklyn was never applauded so loudly ever before in Philadelphia.
Barbra, I must confess, I was a little worried about you. Your performance anxiety has been well documented. But last night you sat down and chatted with us like we were having a cup of coffee in your kitchen. You kibbitzed with the reporter in the front row. “You’re writing? You’re reviewing me? Oy.” Someone asked, “What do you think of Mitt Romney wanting to fire Big Bird?” “I wasn’t going to get political,” you sighed. “But I hope he doesn’t find his way to Sesame Street. Or 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.” The audience roared.
You were funny, relaxed, warm and genuine. And sentimental. “I may have left Brooklyn, but Brooklyn has really never left me,” you said.
And that precious finely tuned musical instrument, that voice of yours, still electrifies and brings chills.
For three hours you mesmerized us with some of your classics, “Don’t Rain on my Parade,” “Evergreen,” “The Way we Were,” “People,” “What Will I Do?” and more. We met your son, Jason, who came out on stage and very creditably performed “How Deep is the Ocean” with you. His first time performing, you told us, beaming.
You sang from “Gypsy” and “Sunset Boulevard” and performed an homage to Marvin Hamlisch and Marilyn and Alan Bergman. Trumpeter Chris Botti and Italian group Il Volo added extra umph to the dazzling music performed by your 60-piece orchestra.
We could have stayed all night, Barbra. But I know last night will stay with me, always.