I REMEMBER HEARING the powerhouse voice of Idina Menzel live for the first time at the Kennedy Center, in the pre-Broadway run of her musical “If/Then.” It was a mother- daughter outing, the kind that made me forget my three siblings and enjoy life as an only child for a few hours. After the show, my mom said that hearing Menzel live was the closest she’d come to one of her lifelong dreams — seeing Barbra Streisand perform. She’s mentioned this dream many times since, usually during an attempt to make me watch “The Way We Were.” And last night, she got to cross that item off her bucket list when, on another memorable mother-daughter date, we saw Babs herself at the Verizon Center on her summer tour: “Barbra: The Music, The Mem’ries, The Magic.” And you better believe she delivered on all three counts.
I was shamefully unprepared for my journey into six decades of Barbra, but I was certainly willing to tag along for the ride. After just enough crowd-watching to confirm I was among the 10 youngest people in the audience, the legend herself glided on stage. And I had the pleasure of seeing my mom scream like the preteen I was when I last attended a Taylor Swift concert at the Verizon Center. While I reserve the right to make fun of her on any and all future occasions, it was pretty great to see my mom be, well, a kid for once. And I couldn’t blame her for getting over-excited; Barbra just has that effect on people. In a killer black pantsuit and choker, a look that she rocked well before it made a reappearance at Urban Outfitters, I was immediately conscious of the fact that Barbra Streisand at 74 is exponentially cooler than my supposedly hip 20-year-old self. Lesson learned.
In addition to the (obviously) flawless vocal arrangements, Barbra treated us to a few of her pearls of wisdom. Even before social media gave the whole world a megaphone for each and every opinion, Streisand was clearly never afraid to speak her mind, and she certainly isn’t backing down now.
On the election cycle: “I always seem to do these little tours of mine during election season—and this one is a doozy.” (Considering she opened the show describing her ride on Pennsylvania Avenue past “Hillary’s new house,” it wasn’t hard to guess where she stood on this one.)
On the current political and international climate: “We need to stop being at war with each other.” (Admittedly these are Carole King’s words, but Barbra sang them beautifully).
On fighting back against Photoshop: “If I wanted a nose job I’d go to a doctor, not a retoucher.”
On putting yourself out there: “If you don’t ask, you can’t get, right?” (If you were wondering who she asked for what, it was Apple CEO Tim Cook to correct Siri’s pronunciation of her last name in the latest update).
The first act ended with a goose-bumps-worthy rendition of “Papa, Can You Hear Me?” from “Yentl.” (Side note: My mom informed me that Streisand directed and starred in this film…is there anything she can’t do? Clearly I’m new to this, because the answer is no). There was a brief intermission because, hey, even Barbra needs a break sometimes. And then she was back at it — this time in a gown! My favorite number of the second half was “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” and not just because it was the only one I knew the words to. There is something so electrifying about hearing someone do something that they know they’re the best at. Hearing her sing that song was like watching Michael Phelps swim the 200-meter medley. There’s no room for ego, just pure talent.
So, thanks to my mom, who was kind enough to take me on this journey, I am now exquisitely aware of the genius that is Barbra Streisand. Her presence and stamina on stage are incredible, and her voice is just beyond compare. But my favorite moment of the show? When Streisand oh-so-casually uttered the words “my friend Liza Minnelli” (who had just sung in a show honoring Barbra). Apparently everyone, including Babs, loves a good name drop.
— Emily Harburg
Emily Harburg is MyLittleBird’s summer intern. This is her last post before she heads back to school. We’ll miss her terribly.