Picks and Pans Review: The Broadway Album

updated 12/16/1985 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/16/1985 AT 01:00 AM EST

Barbra Streisand

Lay down the red carpet for this return of Broadway's funny girl to her roots. From her first album in 1963 until she went totally pop a dozen LPs later, Streisand made Tin Pan Alley a staple of her repertoire. With arranger Peter Matz (with whom she's rewardingly reunited here), Streisand could put her feminist fire into Much More from Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt's The Fantasticks or mine the lilting loveliness of every note in Harold Arlen and Truman Capote's A Sleepin' Bee from House of Flowers. On her new album Streisand uses Stephen Sondheim's acerbic Putting It Together from his Sunday in the Park With George masterwork to explain why she's been away. The upshot is that she listened to bad advice about show tunes being old hat. She needn't have made excuses. Not when she's using the cream of Sondheim, Gershwin, Bernstein, Kern, and Rodgers and Hammerstein to show what she and we have been missing. Something's Coming from West Side Story has never had more urgency, and she makes palpable the anguish of Can't Help Loving That Man from Showboat (with sensational harmonica accompaniment by Stevie Wonder). She links Sondheim with his mentor Oscar Hammerstein by showing how the same romantic yearning informs both Sondheim's Not While I'm Around from Sweeney Todd and Rodgers and Hammerstein's If I Loved You from Carousel. Both performances are definitive. Not everything on the album is so rosy. Somewhere from West Side Story is crushed by overproduced space-movie electronic effects, and Being Alive, a let-it-bleed ballad from Sondheim's Company, is badly served by a dance-beat arrangement. A real measure of the album's success, though, is that you keep thinking of other Broadway songs you want Streisand to sing. How about Rupert Holmes's Moonfall from the new season's best musical, The Mystery of Edwin Drood? Or anything from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's Evita, since it looks like she'll never do the movie version. Streisand and show tunes are a matchless match. More please, Barbra, and soon. (Columbia)

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