photo via OrlandoFringe.org
As I'm the child of Jewish theater-going New York City College graduates, it should come as no shock to anyone that Barbra Streisand was a fixture in the soundtrack of my youth. So when award-winning Babs-alike Carla DelVillaggio hit the stage at the start of “Streisand: The Greatest Star – Like Buttah!” singing “Something's Coming” from West Side Story
to a synthesized '80s drum track, I was instantly transported back to my parents’ living room, listening to The Broadway Album
on vinyl. And while I mostly stopped following Streisand’s career post-Prince of Tides
, as a veteran viewer of Las Vegas shows I feel confident saying that DelVillaggio’s winning tribute could find a home in any of the Strip’s smaller showrooms.
DelVillaggio does a fine job capturing Streisand’s signature inflections and phrasing as she runs through highlights from Bab’s career on Broadway and beyond. Expected hits like “Evergreen,” “The Way We Were” and a “schmedley” of Hello, Dolly
tunes are re-created, but so are some deeper cuts, like “Miss Marmelstein” from I Can Get It for You Wholesale
and a deleted song from Funny Girl
. (Sorry, no Yentl
.) DelVillaggio’s vocals often sound startlingly like the originals, and if she can’t quite sustain her big finishes like the real McCoy … well, who can?
What makes this more than mere karaoke is the effortless (if slightly off-kilter) way DelVillaggio inhabits Babs’ persona. Her hair and profile looked pretty dead-on from my rear-row seat, but more importantly, she captures the mannerisms and posture perfectly. Strangely, though the show seems to be set in the present (she says she’s 73 and references James Brolin), the set list is strictly from the first couple decades of her career, and the between-song kibitzing sounds more like a set from a 1970s cabaret than modern-day Madison Square Garden.
DelVillaggio is undoubtedly talented, but her performance is undermined by low-fi backing instrumentals, amateurishly edited photo montages and (at the preview, at least) a microphone with reverb cranked to 11. Remarkably, she remained both in good humor and in character throughout numerous technical issues. That only added to the show’s sweetly surreal tone, which reaches an apogee when she sings a duet with herself on video as Judy Garland. Babs-haters may not be converted, but my Mom would love this show.
"Streisand: The Greatest Star - Like Buttah!"
Main Event Entertainment – Sanford, FL
Length: 60 minutes
Rating: 7 and up