Long before Lady Gaga’s version of A Star is Born broke all manner of box office records in 2018, Barbra Streisand had brought the same character to life in an earlier version of the film.
Forty years earlier, in fact, and that was just one of many music-laced movies Streisand starred in and made her own.
The much-loved iconic lady of song and screen turned 80 last year, having built a massive catalogue of instantly recognisable songs over a career spanning six decades.
And along the way she has inspired countless singers, many of whom pay tribute to her today with their own musical careers.
Four such talented and highly accomplished singers are bringing a special tribute to Canberra this week.
To Barbra, With Love pulls together familiar faces of Australian song, theatre and film in homage to the Hollywood diva.
Ainsley Melham, Elise McCann, Caroline O’Connor and Katie Noonan – all stars in their own right – have been bringing Streisand’s songs to life in theatres across Australia since the milestone birthday.
With performances both powerful and intimate, the concerts have attracted rave reviews and sellout audiences in Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane.
Now it’s Canberra’s turn.
The singers will be joined by the Canberra Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Vanessa Scammell.
If anyone’s songs should be performed with a world-class orchestra, it’s Barbra Streisand’s.
Together, the orchestra and singers deliver a program of Streisand’s most memorable songs, arranged by conductor and composer Nicholas Buc and directed by one of Australia’s most versatile choreographers and exciting new directors, Cameron Mitchell.
Elise McCann spoke with Region about what to expect, insisting that starring in this production is a true highlight of her career.
“It really is. I’m so not lying. I have loved Barbra all my life and feel really honoured to be singing some of her beautiful songs in such a magnificent production as this,” McCann says.
“My grandmother has every one of Barbra’s albums. Every single one.
“But it wasn’t until I saw Funny Girl and related to her imperfectly beautiful character that I started paying attention.
“Her voice is so unique. I really do love her, and I love the kind of material she gave us all.
“There is such a richness to her material and her performances. I pretty much begged to be in this show.”
Each singer gets to give their own treatment to a number of Streisand classics, using their own strengths and styles.
“Katie Noonan has such a great vocal range that she really does sublime justice to songs like Evergreen, while Caroline O’Connor (legend) has that strong West End and musical theatre background, so she takes those types of songs from Barbra’s career,” McCann said.
“Ainsley is very versatile and does some huge iconic numbers, plus I get to do the Neil Diamond duet with him.
“I do songs from movies like Yentl, Hello, Dolly! and Funny Girl.
“It’s a concert, but we all get to say a few words about Barbra or about our connections to the particular piece of music we’re presenting.
“It’s really bang after bang after bang after bang. The hits keep coming and in every show we’ve done, people are dancing in their seats by the end. It’s a lot of fun for audiences.”
Streisand holds a record-breaking 52 gold and 31 platinum albums, and is one of the very few EGOT-awarded artists (Emmy, Golden Globe, Oscar and Tony).
“She is the ultimate icon. The ultimate diva,” McCann says.
“To me, Barbra is the singers’ singer, with such a beautiful voice and wonderful range.”
To Barbra, With Love plays the Canberra Theatre on Friday, 10 February, and Saturday, 11 February. Tickets at Canberra Theatre.