Starts off a little weak but the middle is entertaining and it finishes beautifully
As someone who really likes Barbra Streisand's voice, The Belle of 14th Street, done like a vaudeville revue, on the most part was a treat. It does though start off on a fairly weak note with You're the Apple of My Eye, Jason Robards does what he can with it but he does look stiff, the number is too cutesy and goes on for far too long and some of the choreography is repetitive, the throwing apples gimmick did get tiring. The Tempest segment is absolutely hilarious, the dialogue is fabulous(of course it would be it's Shakespeare after all) and Barbra and Robards perform the heck out of it but it also feels a touch overlong and will go over the heads of those who have never seen The Tempest. Some of the in-between segments could have had more zip in the pace and more to the point. However, the special looks great with the standout being the editing in the Mother Machree number, very clever stuff, Barbra's black dress is also a knockout. The sets and period detail are sumptuous and authentic, and it is all beautifully photographed. The music ranges between the rousing and the sublime, not so more apparent in the medley in the third act, and everybody watching will be guaranteed to love the nostalgic and witty quality The Belle of 14th Street has. The highlights of the special were the operatic-like Liebestraume which had great entertainment value and had plenty of surprises, including Barbra's remarkably strong high register and in particular the medley, all the songs are wonderful, some also sadly rare, and Barbra sings them with spirit, impeccable vocal control and heartfelt soul. She takes on numerous roles and is wonderful, the medley is the standout but her matriarch in We're Four Americans, her Schmausen Schmidt, her dual role in The Tempest and the striptease for Alice Blue Gown are very well played as well. Put Your Arms Around Me Honey aided by the charming animation(the opening credits are similarly well animated and amusing) is also beautiful. Robards proves a better actor than a singer but like Barbra he takes on multiple roles and shows that he is far from ill-suited. John Bubbles is very entertaining too, and that is including his very odd half-chicken costume. Overall, very good on the whole but the middle and last acts fare better than the first. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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