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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

To Barbra With Love: An 80th Birthday Celebration (MSO and Live Nation) at Hamer Hall - 120 minutes

Unquestionably one of the most talented singers on the planet (not to overlook her many other creative endeavours), it is hard to believe that Barbra Streisand turns 80 on 24th April.

The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (MSO) and Live Nation thought it was only fitting that they put on a special tribute show to mark the occasion.

They have done so utilising four most accomplished Australian singers – Caroline O’Connor, Katie Noonan, Elise McCann and Ryan Gonzalez.

I, for one, am mighty pleased they did because the two-hour performance (including a 20-minute interval) gifts us a number of Babs’ greatest hits.

Some 20 songs in all are covered.

Although many numbers are familiar, the arrangements by Nicholas Buc are variations of the known, enabling the performers to showcase their range.

Photo by Nico Keenan

Noonan has a beautiful, pure voice (which I liken to smooth chocolate), especially noticeable in the upper registers.

McCann is her equal when it comes to purity of sound. Her ability to hold and prolong notes as songs build to a crescendo is something special – ear pleasing and fabulous.

O’Connor brings depth, confidence, sass and stage presence. She is a real crowd favourite.

Photo by Laura Pemberton

Strength, power and control are hallmarks of the slick backed, dark-haired, moustachioed Gonzalez.

All are elegantly attired – the women in long flowing gowns and Gonzalez in what appeared to be a silk suit before interval.

A costume change for all during the break sees more impressive and stylish evening wear, with Gonzalez donning black chinos and a flouncy navy-blue top.

Conductor Vanessa Scammell is quite the fashion plate herself, an evocative black number showcasing her toned arms as she wields the baton with poise and polish.

Photo by Nico Keenan

More to the point, she is on top of her game, as is the MSO … giving us a memorable night of entertainment and a celebration of the inimitable Barbra Streisand, which is to be savoured.

My personal favourites were Woman in Love and the stunning duet You Don’t Bring Me Flowers in the first act and Send in the Clowns and another superlative double act, Guilty, in Act II.

The applause is justifiably strong and heartfelt throughout. In fact, I would describe it as a warm embrace of the offering and the artistry involved, under the fine direction of Cameron Mitchell.

Photo by Laura Pemberton

To Barbra With Love is playing at Hamer Hall at 2pm and again at 7:30pm on Saturday, 23rd April, 2022.


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