Vanessa Scammell – Directed by Cameron Mitchell
Design by Peter Rubie – Audio Engineered by Des O’Neill
Theatre 10th and 11th February 2023.
on 10th February reviewed by Bill Stephens
scheduled for Canberra in October 2022, this much anticipated celebration of
the achievements of songstress, Barbra Streisand, finally arrived in Canberra
for the last two concerts of its capital city’s tour.
spans more than six decades and during that time she’s not only proven herself
as an incomparable song stylist across stage, film and popular music, but also
as a composer, director, writer and producer.
|Caroline O'Connor in "To Barbra With Love"
With Love” concentrates on her singing career, with a selection of her most
popular songs given fresh new arrangements by Nicholas Buc and performed by
four of the country’s most accomplished and celebrated music theatre singers in
Caroline O’Connor, Elise McCann, Katie Noonan, and for the Canberra concerts,
Ainsley Melham, accompanied by The Canberra Symphony Orchestra conducted by the
charismatic, Vanessa Scammell.
It was a shame therefore that the opening concert was plagued with poor sound balance between orchestra and vocalists, which often rendered the lyrics of the songs unintelligible. This was particularly the case with opening song “Putting it Together” for which Sondheim himself had re-written the lyrics specifically for Streisand to perform on her “Back to Broadway” album.
occasion those lyrics were completely drowned out. Elsewhere the vocalists had
to fight to be heard over the orchestra.
This was a technical problem outside the control of either singers or
orchestra, but certainly not expected during a concert of this magnitude.
|Elise McCann in "To Barbra With Love"
balance did improve as the concert progressed, and there were moments when the
details of the musical arrangements were astonishingly beautiful, especially
for Elise McCann’s breathtaking interpretation of “Papa Can You Hear Me” composed
for Streisand for her film “Yentl”, and Katie Noonan’s angelic styling of “Somewhere”
from “West Side Story”.
sound problems there were many highlights. Stylishly directed by Cameron
Mitchell, the songs followed each other with minimal interruption or
explanation. The ladies each wore lavish gowns especially designed for the
concert by Melbourne couturier, Linda Britten. .
The lighting design by Peter Rubie effectively highlighted the soloists both vocal and instrumental, particularly notable for the duet, “You Don’t Send Me Flowers” superbly interpreted by Elise McCann and Ainsley Melham, and Caroline O’Connor’s touching interpretation of “Send in The Clowns”, another of the songs for which Sondheim varied the lyrics at Streisand’s request for her Broadway album.
legendary Caroline O’Connor, who has thrilled audiences around Australia as
well as on Broadway and the West End, displayed her mastery of the Broadway
showstopper with her dynamic performances of two songs from “Funny Girl”, the
musical which brought Streisand to international attention, “Don’t Rain on My
Parade” and the poignant, “People”.
|Katie Noonan in "To Barbra With Love"
Katie Noonan delighted
with her superb vocal stylings especially in two songs by the Bee Gees, “Woman
in Love” and the duet “Guilty” for which she teamed with Ainsley Melham.
has just finished a national tour of “Cinderella”, and who has previously played the lead in the
Disney musical “Aladdin” in Australia, on Broadway and in the West End, demonstrated his versatility with swinging versions of “Happy Days are Here Again” and “Gotta Move”,
while Elise McCann, who won a Helpmann Award for her performance in the Tim
Minchin musical “Matilda”, practically stopped the show with her rousing
rendition of “Before the Parade Passes By” from “Hello Dolly”.
sound balance found its correct level the Canberra Symphony Orchestra impressed
with its versatility interpreting Nicholas Buc’s lush arrangements, capturing
the authentic sound of the Broadway musical, the romantic mood of Streisand’s
favourite ballads or the irresistible disco beat of “Enough is Enough” which brought
the audience to its feet for the joyful finale.
With Love” is a superbly produced and performed celebration of an extraordinary
career. Therefore it was especially disappointing that its
penultimate performance for Canberra audiences was marred by technical problems.
Hero image by Peter Rubie.
Caroline O'Connor, Katie Noonan, Elise McCann images by Nico Keenan
Ainslie Melham image by Gerrit Fokkema.
This review also published in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW. www.artsreview.com.au