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Putting It Together: The Making of the Broadway Album (1985)

| Short, Music | Video
Behind-the-scenes look of Barbra Streisand taping an album of Broadway tunes.

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Behind-the-scenes look of Barbra Streisand taping an album of Broadway tunes.

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Not a proper "Streisand Special," but still very entertaining - a great supplement to The Broadway Album (1985)
25 July 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Although this is officially considered to be one of the legendary series of "Streisand Specials" that Barbra Streisand has created for television since the mid-sixties, it should be noted that PUTTING IT TOGETHER is neither a concept special like 1965's Emmy-winning MY NAME IS BARBRA nor a concert film in the vein of 1967's A HAPPENING IN CENTRAL PARK. Anyone who comes to this 40-minute mini-documentary expecting the cohesion and splendor of those previous achievements will be sorely disappointed. In reality, this special's only true meaning for existence was to help promote the release of the 1985 album The Broadway Album, however, it should be noted that PUTTING IT TOGETHER is in no way a wasted effort or a venture without value for Streisand's army of fans. In fact, the outing proves to be a very entertaining and sometimes mesmerizing look at one of the world's greatest recording artists creating one of her all-time masterworks.

The special features a generous helping of "behind-the-scenes" footage of Streisand and her assortment of producers and musicians in the recording studio as they experiment with different arrangements and techniques in an attempt to create the best recording possible, and these studio clips provide a fascinating glimpse at the shaping of what would arguably become Streisand's greatest recording. The shaping of Streisand's remarkable rendition of Steven Sondheim's "Putting It Together" is one of the high-points of the outing, and the viewer is treated to Streisand's numerous attempts to get the track just right, and delight in the infamous perfectionist's victory when she finally nails it. Equally amazing is the even more drastic transformation of the album's version of SHOWBOAT'S "Can't Help Loving That Man," which began life as a brassy, dramatic vocal workout before evolving into the soulfully subtle finished version. Snippets from the recording sessions of Sondheim's "Send in the Clowns" and Rogers and Hammerstein's "If I Loved You" are also included, both of which feature alternate vocal performances that differ from the versions on the final album.

Inter-cut between the performance footage is an interview of Streisand by director/friend William Friedkin, best-known for directing classic films THE FRENCH CONNECTION (1971) and THE EXORCIST (1973). This question-and-answer segment will not please individuals who are hoping for an exhaustive or in-depth interview, as Friedkin steers clear of any truly personal questions and Streisand, as usual, never displays any interest in letting her guard down for even a moment. Streisand is, however, very articulate in explaining her rationale for recording the very traditional album at this point in her career, and her love and appreciation for the material she is recording always feels completely genuine and real. Also incorporated into the special is the Friedkin-directed music video for Streisand's sensational, post-apocalyptic recording of the Leonard Bernstein/Steven Sondheim classic "Somewhere," which quickly became one of Streisand's best-loved signature songs and is now regarded by many as the definitive rendition of the often-performed number.

As for The Broadway Album it's self, it received rave reviews from virtually all major music critics, and the response from the public was even more amazing. The album had been considered a "risky" project by Columbia Records, and the label was convinced that an album of such traditional material would prove to be a major commercial disaster. In the end, these skeptics were dead wrong as the album skyrocketed all the way to #1 on Billboard's Hot 200 album chart and sold over four million copies in the US alone - which must have been a sweet victory for Streisand, who had always believed in the project from the very beginning. The Broadway Album arguably remains the finest recording of Streisand's lengthy career, and PUTTING IT TOGETHER is a worthy supplement to that landmark album.


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