- Last Updated: 11:42 PM, July 20, 2012
- Posted: 10:45 PM, July 20, 2012
STREISAND: THE GREATEST STAR
Laurie Beechman Theatre, 407 W. 42nd St.; 212-352-3101. Next show Wednesday.
The most surprising thing about “Streisand: The Greatest Star” is that it’s performed by a woman.
New York City cabarets are so awash in drag acts that Carla DelVillaggio’s slavish tribute feels refreshing. Looking and sounding uncannily like the real deal, the 40-something performer delivers a show that’s probably the next best thing to seeing Streisand herself play Brooklyn’s Barclays Center in October — and certainly a lot cheaper.
Actually, it’s three shows, since the engagement began with an evening devoted to ’60s-era Streisand and ends Wednesday night with “Barbra, Back to Broadway,” composed entirely of Broadway hits that she recorded. The show I caught, “Streisand Songbird: Memories,” presented the star in her mature, glamorous mode.
Accompanied by an ace three-piece band, DelVillaggio sang “Evergreen,” “The Way We Were,” “Stoney End,” “People” and more, all with Streisand’s signature phrasing, timing and vocal mannerisms, including the way her voice suddenly soars at key moments. Wearing a black, long-sleeved scoop dress and then an elegant ivory lace gown, she sports Streisand’s trademark bangs and long nails. It’s an all-too-convincing illusion, although a few drinks and a willing suspension of disbelief won’t hurt.
DelVillaggio’s got that refined Brooklynese accent down pat, as when she sings, “Life’s candy and the sun’s a ball of buttah” in “Don’t Rain on My Parade.” Kibitzing with the audience, she works in such phrases as “I’m shvitzing up here” and “I’m verklempt.” She’s also accompanied by a Judy Garland imitator, seen on video, in the pair’s famous duet combining “Get Happy” and “Happy Days Are Here Again,” in a segment so deliriously campy that your sexual orientation could change while watching it.
“I think she looks pretty good dead,” “Barbra” says of her late singing partner.
Cheering her on in the audience was a woman she identified as her “fellow Jewess” — Bette Midler. Actually, it was Donna Maxon, who’ll soon be re-creating Midler’s famous Continental Bathhouse shows, back when she was accompanied by a young, unknown pianist named Barry Manilow.
DelVillaggio definitely has her simulation down pat. Whether it’s worth seeing an evening-long impersonation, however expert, that’s largely devoid of thematic depth is another matter.