Barbra Streisand's 3rd television special uses turn of the century vaudeville for a filmed stage show, complete with curtain, stage cards, and a period-costumed audience.
As if evolving from her 1965 My Name is Barbra where the entire hour was centred on her, and the 1966 Color Me Barbra where she included circus animals, here she is the title performer who is only one of the acts. Streisand is also one of The Dancing Duncans, where she sings and dances with Jason Robards and Lee Allen using an odd Irish accent; with Robards as the acting couple The Mongers who do a scene from The Tempest where she plays Arial and Miranda; and Madame Nuremburg Nightingale (her german name escaped me) who sings an operatic Liebestraum, then duets with Streisand as a boy in the audience singing Mother Macree. Streisand-less acts are Robards as Alf Yates with the Beeftrust Girls, and John Bubbles.
The 3 act structure from the first 2 shows is loosely copied, with the final act again devoted to Streisand (as the Belle) in concert. The opening and closing credit sequences, where cut-out images of Streisand in period clothes and backdrop dance to her singing, tells you that director Joe Layton is having fun, as is the reaction shots of the audience (sometimes not pleased) and the backstage views - this is most evident when we see the mechanics behind The Tempest.
Streisand too plays for camp appeal, with her drag queen make-up including Cleopatra eyeliner, being stripped of her clothes in Alice Blue Gown, the androgyny of the Mother Macree boy who has her trademark long fingernails, her southern accented Mrs Monger with big hair, and the Mae West style feather boa and matching feathered large hat she wears as The Belle. The period look pre-empts primarily her Dolly Levi in the 1969 film of Hello, Dolly!, and also the period clothes of the 1968 Funny Girl she had yet to make.
Streisand's singing also indulges in vocal virtuosity in I Don't Care and Nobody But Me, that demonstrate her boredom with performing in a `straight' fashion. However, her best moments are the display of her upper register in Liebestraum, her rendition of My Buddy/How About Me, and the freshness of her Shakespearean Miranda, perhaps funnier because she plays opposite Robards.
At the time this special was released, the use of the Beefttrust Girls created a stir, as they are a chorus of fat ladys. However arguments of exploitation seemed to ignore the fact that these girls are shown to be good singers and dancers, and that the fuller figure was politically correct for the period.
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