TV SPECIALS



‘LONG BEFORE MTV, THERE WAS STREISAND TV wrote Stephen Holden (New York Times)
You can discover this for yourself with a 5-DVD Boxed Set that includes all of Barbra's TV Specials from My Name Is Barbra to Barbra and Other Musical Instruments.

With these spectacular showcases, Barbra confirmed herself with the critics and public alike that she was on her way to becoming one of the world’s most legendary female entertainers.
These Specials reveal great insight into Barbra’s vision, integrity and fearless instinct for what is right, what works as well as her passion for discovery.
Perhaps you remember seeing them on TV, or you have seen poor quality tapes, it doesn’t matter as you will discover that time has only enhanced them and continued to entrench Barbra in the heady mega-star status she is afforded today. In terms of dedication to her art, Barbra remains today who she was then, observe the sheer volume of hard work, imagination, creative thought and talent that was poured into each one of these special… specials.
MY NAME IS BARBRA

MY NAME IS BARBRA (1965) was the first of five television specials that Barbra would produce and star in exclusively for CBS, and it marked her emergence as one of the most popular and acclaimed American performers of stage, screen, and music.

*For the box set, Barbra recorded an introduction for 3 of the Specials.




“She is so great, it is shocking.”
United Press International

Despite being entrenched in the sixties and reflective of fashion, music and entertainment trends at the time, My Name Is Barbra remains an entertaining special unfazed by time, technology and today’s entertainment demands.
Such specials can be cheesy, loaded with guests and skits, but here Barbra carries the entire production alone. Moving through a myriad of sets the slightly autobiographic tone moves smoothly as Barbra sings standard after standard including I’m Five set
 in a giant oversized playground. She sings and dances through a chain of song and costume changes shot in Berdorfs Department Store. When Barbra does pause for a chat, she delivers a hilarious monologue sitting on a bass drum.

The finale is a fantastic ‘concert’ style setting that sees Barbra, dressed in black, at a microphone belting out tunes from Funny Girl as well as “When The Sun Comes Out”, “Lover Come Back To Me” & ‘Happy Days Are Here Again’ all delivered in a powerful, unbridled performance that makes you cheer.






The pioneering special, garnered five Emmys, including the first of several for Barbra personally, as well as her first Peabody Award. The critical acclaim was unprecedented, with United Press International exclaiming, "She is so great it is shocking. She may well be the most supremely talented and complete popular entertainer that this country has ever produced."

*The Special produced an album by the same name

Watch When The Sun Comes Out 



                      
COLOR ME BARBRA

After the across-the-board success of My Name Is Barbra, CBS green lit an even more elaborate follow-up as her second special. Before Barbra lay the obvious task of topping herself and raising the bar higher in inventiveness and spectacle. Not only did Barbra succeed, she managed to mount a wonderful, colourful production without sacrificing the intimacy and vision of My Name Is Barbra.

Again, divided into three distinct Acts, Barbra and company undertook the task of filming in the Philadelphia Art Museum. The unique location provided endless opportunities for Barbra to ‘enter’ various art pieces providing an excellent illustration of the song being performed.


In addition to providing the perfect canvas for an imaginative segment, it enhanced the advantage of filming in glorious colour (or color).
Dashing around the museum, Barbra pauses to admire various paintings and sculptures, often ‘becoming’ the character to great effect. Possibly the highlight is Barbra’s impersonation the Egyptian beauty Queen Nefertiti while exuding a tour-de-force rendition of Rogers and Hart’s “Where or When.” As Thomas Eakin's Concert Singer, Barbra delivers a wonderful campy performance of Chopin's "Minute Waltz" perfected with Barbra’s own perfect sense of timing and comedic ability.




Act II sees a circus medley where Barbra interacts with various farm and circus animals, while singing various songs with farm/circus/animal themes. Some highlights include Barbra singing "Were Thine That Special Face" to a baby elephant, performing "I've Grown Accustomed to that Face" as a serenade to a piglet, the campy "Sam, You Made the Pants to Long" sung to a group of baby penguins, and Barbra comparing profiles with an anteater while crooning "We Have So Much in Common." After swinging on a trapeze and bouncing on a trampoline to the chorus of "Spring Again," things slow down and Barbra delivers a haunting version of "I Stayed Too Long at the Fair.” Look out for Barbra’s then pet poodle, Sadie, making an appearance too.






Act III sees a repeat of the ‘concert’ style ending. Again, this is the highlight of an excellent special, as Barbra, this time dressed in white, woos her audience with renditions of Harold Arlen's "Anyplace I Hang My Hat Is Home," before launching into heartfelt versions of the familiar standard "It Had to Be You" and the rarely-heard "C'est Si Bon (It's So Good)."


Others memorable songs include a breathtakingly powerful, octave-soaring performance of "Where Am I Going," (Sweet Charity) and the now familiar, "Starting Here, Starting Now."

More razzle-dazzle this time around, a little more chutzpah and even color, yet Barbra remains the focus of the hour and the over-all vision is never lost, nor compromised. A showcase for her then ever-growing star power, Barbra’s voice is as splendid as ever, and she glows in (first time) colour. COLOR ME BARBRA was another ratings smash and in defiance of tradition is a sequel almost on a par with a classic original.


Again the Special was doubled with an album release of the same name

**Any Place I hang My Hat 






                              
THE BELLE OF 14TH STREET

Belle (Barbra) is the “top-billed act” in this affectionate tribute to turn of the century vaudeville. No detail was too small for this lovingly re-created world of a bygone era. Her first television special to feature guest-stars, THE BELLE OF 14TH STREET celebrates, in ways both comedic and heartfelt, “The Golden Age Of Song.” A marvelous showcase for such evergreens as Sophie Tucker’s “Some Of These Days,” “How About Me?” (written by “a new young talent” Irving Berlin ), the poignant “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows,” and the sublime “My Buddy”-all classics of the vaudeville era, reinvented by Barbra.

The Belle Of 14th Street marked Barbra’s third television special. It was broadcast on October 11,1967 on the CBS Network.
Breaking away from her prior format, this time Barbra worked with guest stars and it co- starred John Bubbles, Jason Robards and Lee Allen (who would team with Barbra later to play Eddie in Funny Girl). Also unlike prior specials, no soundtrack was released from this special, and it would be the lowest rated of the three thus far.
However don’t under estimate Belle, despite format changes, it still oozes inventiveness and a constant to beat the high standard bar previously set by My Name Is Barbra and Color Me Barbra.



An animation made up of of Barbra cut-outs dance and flicker on screen to the Garland classic ‘I Don’t Care,’ and the fashion regresses from the late sixties back to tour of the century that sets the tone for the rest of special. People hurry to their seats forming a packed theatre of 14th Street and the variety show begins. First out is Jason Robards and ‘beeftrust’ girls – then on comes Barbra to perform ‘Alice Blue Gown’ as her entire wardrobe literally falls away as she sings. *This was a troublesome element to film, the costume kept malfunctioning resulting in multiple takes as Barbra struggled on with increasing voice problems and fatigue.


The master of ceremonies waxes lyrical of the next performer, Mme. Schmausen Schmidt, an opera singer from Germany (played by Barbra of course.) She then begins to sing "Libestraum." Easily one of the highlights as Barbra's voice soars with this number.
The diva then tells us all of her triumphal tour of America. She proceeds to sing "Mother Macree." While singing, an angelic voice sings out from the crowd. The diva then calls for this person to stand up and sing the song with her. Her young admirer is a boy, obviously, Barbra. Mme. Schmausen Schmidt's performance is over and she waves goodbye to the little boy and the crowd.
Jefferson Davis Monger and his wife Roberta Lee Booth enter with "A Taste Of The Tempest." Barbra plays Roberta, a Shakespearean Actress with a deep Southern drawl. Robards plays Jefferson Davis Monger. (This is loads of fun!)


Eventually, the shows namesake makes her grand appearance in the shape of "The Belle of 14th Street." The headliner of the vaudeville show we've been enjoying. The main attraction is certainly worth the wait and worthy of her headlining status. The Belle begins with, "My Melancholy Baby."


After that, she moves on to show her many voices and emotions in "Everybody Loves My Baby (But My Baby Don't Want Nobody But Me.)" A touch of the softer side as the Belle performs a rather moving rendition of "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows." She continues her melancholy side with "My Buddy" paired with "How About Me?" She tells the audience that the last song was written by a new guy, Irving Berlin, noting that they should remember that name because he's a good man, and "A Good Man Is Hard To Find." Then she hands out some advice for love and life and sings "Some Of These Days."
The show's credits are run over more cut-outs of Barbra performing "Put Your Arms Around Me Honey."
Ultimately Belle, while a cut away from previous TV outings, is unique, adventurous and always true to it’s ‘old-style’ vaudeville style variety. Likely it trails its predecessors due to bad ratings at the time, however, looking on it now, it is a Barbra special, done in true unwavering Barbra style thus deserves its place on she shelf alongside Barbra's prior Specials.
There was no album release with Belle.
**Alice blue gown 



               



A HAPPENING IN CENTRAL PARK

On the evening of June 17, 1967, on a weekend break from shooting Funny Girl, Barbra performed before a massive audience of 135,000 in Central Park’s huge Sheep’s Meadow for a ‘free’ once-in-a-lifetime outdoor concert event. Several mounted cameras and another attached to a helicopter captured the event from every conceivable angle. It was an unprecedented event and Barbra’s fourth TV special.


Noted as the most attended concert event of its time. Despite the expanse, Barbra achieved what she continues to achieve in live performances today, that rare intimacy that carries her personality and mega-star talent to every edge of the venue. Barbra turned the historic park into her own “backyard” as she performed signature hits like “People,” “Second Hand Rose,” and “Happy Days Are Here Again.”
From time to time we see close ups of the audience, they are almost all young people, and don’t ya feel sorry for the poor guy who misses out on a turn of the bicnoculars? Frustration.

The event was not without its planning and staging headaches, from finding an insurer to the weather (it ‘poured’ down the day of concert and the sound checks were cancelled) During the show, Barbra forgot the words during ‘Value’ and was prompted by conductor Mort Lindsey who yelled out the missing line. ‘It is every performers worst nightmare.’ Barbra has said, 'And I wasn't cute.' This has often been accredited to the onstart of her crippling stage-fright.

But these are mere blips on an otherwise cracking event that made this a spectacular high-rated special. Dressed in flowing chiffon (designed by Irene Sharraf) Barbra appears at times like a beautiful, back lit butterfly with her arms spread wide catching a rare breeze.

Laced with memorable moments, again Barbra delivers a hilarious monologue throwing in other comedic quips and spots -the shloom and the gumpet is classic- and her rendition of ‘He Touched Me’ is a  (personal) highlight as Barbra expertly builds up an unbridled performance of this classic dramatic number. You could watch it over and over. ‘Marty the Martian’ (sang in homage to her manager, Marty Erlichman) is a great fun number and the poignant ‘Silent Night’ showcases Barbra’s immense vocal range.



An extraordinary evening with an audience . . . beneath a sky littered with winking stars, they came to see the biggest star of all in one of the most beautiful settings imaginable.

**An album was released of the concert



                       

                                    
BARBRA STREISAND . . . AND OTHER
MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS

"The idea was to incorporate instruments and musical styles from all over the world.” Barbra (JFTR)

A multicultural musical potpourri, is how one person described Barbra’s fifth television spectacular. It had been five years since Barbra’s last special, when she recorded ‘Instruments’ in the UK (Elstree Studios) in July of ‘73.

Barbra remembers in the Just For The Record notes: "The idea was to incorporate instruments and musical styles from all over the world. Although it was to be my last TV special for 13 years, it's a show I'm proud of, and particularly so because Ray Charles agreed to be part of it."
Easily ahead of its time with its multicultural strands and an impressive array of new and classic hits with some ingenious genre-bending arrangements, it is a continual feast for the ears and eyes.

Ultimately it melds Barbra with over 50 musicians playing everything from traditional violins, cellos, flutes, and oboes . . . to the more exotic kabuki woodblock, sitar, Chippewa tom-tom, sewing machine . . . saw . . . orange juice squeezer, and washing machine! Proving you can make your own music from just about anything.
Early on it becomes clear that the show is a musical melange of sounds. Musical theory is tested, arrangements bent and moulded so familiar songs are ‘re-invented’ inviting to listener to hear the song/tune differently.
It offers many highlights, including timeless duet of “Crying Time” with the Genius of Soul Ray Charles. As always with Barbra, Comedy is rarely far away and it is littered through out the special. The ‘Piano Practicing’ quick patter song (akin the Minute Waltz) is excellent and Barbra’s growing irritation throughout the Spanish like dance routine. Man versus machine sees Barbra lost amid a set covered with synthesisers and hi-tech musical equipment she can’t master.

These days, budding singers/artist/musicians would benefit, even learn, from viewing this special. Perhaps, it would inspire them to dare to reveal their own musical vision and, like Barbra’s effort, cleverly reveal how various rhythm, sounds and music surrounds us daily and can even be utilised to create ‘your own kind of music.’

Note: Barbra's rendition of the "I Got Rhythm" medley concludes with her longest recorded sustained note (a breath taking 23 seconds).

*This special also released an album of the same name




This Special rounds off a cracking box set of Barbra’s specials that no respectable Streisand admirer, or music lover, should be without. Indeed, in compiling this section I enjoyed the chance to view this wonderful TV Specials over. So what are you waiting for? Get that box set and pick a disc, any disc, you can’t lose.

And the Emmy Goes to....


**Want to know more? You can find in-depth behind-the-scenes info about these specials, as well as rare pictures and documents pertaining to the shows at Matt's excellent web site Barbra-archives.com