“Timeless” Concerts (1999-2000)

Wide view of Timeless stage

Timeless Tour Pages:

Putting It Together—Barbra Plans Her Millennium Shows

As early as January 5, 1999 New York Post gossip columnist Neal Travis reported “I can today exclusively reveal that the great diva [Barbra Streisand] will be singing in the New Year next Dec. 31 at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. She'll be doing it for a fee far greater than has ever been paid to any artist, anywhere, for a performance. My sources will only confirm that Streisand is getting 'an eight-figure amount,' which means at least $10 million.”

Reporting on April 7, 1999 in USA Today, Jeannie Williams related her conversation with Barbra Streisand's manager, Marty Erlichman, regarding incessant Las Vegas concert rumors enumerating big bucks for Barbra. Erlichman told her, “All the numbers I have read are inaccurate. There's no contract yet. The negotiations are not finalized. I don't know why people won't understand and accept that. I have no history of lying, but I never give out numbers. If we make a deal [for two New Year's 2000 concerts at Las Vegas' MGM Grand Hotel], and I believe we will...then you marshal your forces (with advertising and publicity) to let the public know everything at the same time. This piecemeal stuff is inaccurate, and it's disturbing." When asked about the probability of Barbra touring next year, Erlichman replies, "It would be like last time. If she performs in Las Vegas, she'll wait to see how she feels after that performance. There are no tour plans now."

Streisand concerts newspaper ad

“My priorities have shifted,” a newly-wed Streisand said, “I want to work less these days, travel and enjoy my life. If this engagement goes well, I may decide later to appear in a few cities around the world that my husband and I would like to visit.”

Read the original April 28, 1999 press release for Barbra's Timeless concerts here.

Tickets were placed on sale on Sunday, May 2, 1999. Shortly after the big announcement, a second show was added for January 1, 2000. The MGM Grand issued a press release on May 3, 1999:

Within hours of going on sale Sunday (May 2) morning, the Barbra Streisand New Year's Eve concert at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas set a one-day, single performance sales record, according to Ticketmaster President and CEO Terry Barnes.

Almost a complete sellout, with only a limited selection of seats remaining, the Streisand millennium celebration had racked up the highest one-day dollar total of any single performance in the 33 year Ticketmaster history, Barnes affirmed. This includes all forms of Ticketmaster-represented entertainment and sporting events sold through Ticketmaster's distribution network or charge-by-phone, interactive voice response, retail ticket centers, www.ticketmaster.com and box office.

"The MGM Grand congratulates Ms. Streisand on this historic confirmation of her unique appeal," stated Richard Sturm, Senior Vice President-Worldwide Entertainment for MGM Grand Hotel, Inc. "We truly believe we are presenting the signature event that will celebrate the welcome of the new millennium."

Rosie O'Donnell interviewed Barbra on her November 16th television show and asked Barbra about the upcoming concert:

Streisand on Rosie showRO: Are you excited about The Millennium Concert tour?
BJS: Well, excited? Excited is a funny word for me. It's a lot of hard work.
RO: Does it fill you with angst or fill you with anticipation?
BJS: Both. It's like an interesting forum. I do believe one has to really deserve the privilege of being on a stage, raised above everyone else. It's like you have to have a real reason to be there. You have to have something to give, something to offer, something to contribute. So that's a big burden, a big responsibility, but it's also a way that I can say things or sing things to the people.
RO: Will it be much different from the last tour?
BJS: I don't know how big a tour this is gonna be, but I think we're gonna do a second night, because we've had a lot of people ask for more tickets, and we don't have any more.
RO: It's in Las Vegas on New Year's Eve. Are you a little worried about Y2K? No?
BJS: No. You know...what could happen? All the lights go out and sound goes out. We'll all light a candle, and I'll sing without a mike.

Below: Liz Smith and other newspaper columns reported that John Travolta would be appearing with Barbra in concert as a guest star. It's an interesting idea that never happened.

Smith column about John Travolta

Barbra's Timeless show was very different from The Concert—her 1994 concert tour. Timeless featured a cast, a huge set, and a very technical show with moving jumbotrons and sophisticated lighting.

Lauren Frost and Streisand

“I first auditioned for Barbra's tour in August of 1999,” Lauren Frost [she portrayed “Young Barbra Streisand”) told BarbraNews. “I was told the audition was for a secret pilot project, and I didn't even know that Barbra was involved for a very long time.”

“Rehearsals started in November, right after Thanksgiving,” Frost explained. “For about 5 weeks, I worked with Marvin [Hamlisch], Kenny [Ortega], Randee Heller and Alec Ledd (the other actors), all the best orchestra musicians and, of course, Barbra. It was such a thrill to hear Barbra sing throughout rehearsals. It was a private concert every night! At the end of December we did a private performance for about 350 of Barbra's closest personal and celebrity friends and family. Then it was on to Las Vegas for more rehearsals and the opening shows.”

Daily Variety's Army Archerd heard rave reviews for Barbra Streisand's first Millennium Concert dress rehearsal, December 15th at Manhattan Beach's Raleigh Studios. The intimate audience of family and friends included husband Jim Brolin, Josh Brolin and fiancée Minnie Driver, Diana Streisand Kind, Roslyn Kind, Barbra's aunts Muriel and Sylvia, Marty Erlichman and wife Miko, the Gregory Pecks, Aaron Spellings, Brenda Vaccaro, Pierce Brosnan and fiancée Keely Shaye Smith, Alan & Marilyn Bergman, Jeff & Deborah Wald, Penny Marshall and brother Garry Marshall, and Lesley Ann Warren. One of the guests told Archerd (for his 12/17/99 column) that the all-new concert is "masterful -- different from anything you've seen or heard her do before -- hysterically funny -- more like a Broadway show."

Streisand and her team created the show throughout rehearsals, discovering which songs worked best in which order. For instance, the November 19th First Act song list included “By the Way.” The Second Act song set list for Timeless included “Everything Must Change” before “On A Clear Day” ... “Isn't It A Pity” and “The Music That Makes Me Dance” in the “I've Dreamed of You”/Jim Brolin segment ... and “I Believe/You'll Never Walk Alone” instead of “I Believe/Somewhere.”

By December 29th, although the show was firming up, “When Sunny Gets Blue” was rehearsed and considered in the First Act. “Since I Fell For You” and “If You Ever Leave Me” were also candidates for inclusion in the show.

“Timeless” Credits:

Produced by: Barbra Streisand and Don Mischer

Executive Director: Martin Erlichman

Written & Directed by: Barbra Streisand and Kenny Ortega

Musical Direction & Arrangements by: Marvin Hamlisch

Production Design: David George

Lighting Design and Director: Peter Morse

Gowns by: Barbra Streisand

Streisand and cast on stage at MGM Grand


Brother Time: Savion Glover

Young Girl: Lauren Frost

Piano Player: Alec Ledd

Mother: Randee Heller

Ziegfield Voice: Bert Kramer

Bon Soir Announcer: Charles Valentino

Background Singers: Peggi Blu, Bridgett Bryant, Kellie Coffey

Voice-Overs for “Miss Marmelstein”: Marty Erlichman, J.J. Erlichman, Steve Kahn, Terri Jackson, Alec Ledd, Randee Heller

Very Special Thanks to Shirley MacLaine

Streisand singing on stage

More Cast Members

Actress Randee Heller, who played Barbra's mother in Timeless (and went on to play the Emmy-nominated role of Miss Blankenship on Mad Men), remembered her time working on the Streisand show with Vulture.com. “[Barbra's] real mother was there; she was in her 90s in a wheelchair. I don’t even think she was aware of what was going on. So you get onstage with this 75-piece orchestra, and it would just blow you away. 50,000 people!”

Heller described Streisand, too: “Some people are funny onstage or on-camera, and then they’re the most serious people in the world. She’s funny all the time. She’s a naturally kinetic soul. And, um, she loved the stock market. She wouldn’t go out at night, because she’d say, ‘I have to get up in a couple of hours and [check] on the stock market.’ I think she liked that more than singing at the time.”

Alec Ledd played Streisand's pianist in the opening scene, and in one scene in the second act. He was called into audition for a secret movie-of-the-week. His call-back and eventual casting, however, was at Barbra Streisand's house. “They take us into what she calls Grandma's House [...] across the room, wearing a salmon-colored, chenille cowlick sweater, leaning on the couch—it's Barbra Streisand,” Ledd recalled to the KCRW Strangers podcast. “She sort-of starts improvising, without even knowing she's improvising, because she's not familiar with the dialogue. One of my backgrounds is improv. So she starts doing her dialogue, and I start changing mine up, making it more that what it is, and she's like ‘Oh, that's good. Oh, let's write that down.’ About an hour and twenty minutes later we're done.”

Timeless backup singer Kellie Coffey recalled Streisand coming up to her at a rehearsal and asking, “Why is this so hard?”

“Here I was, giving her this pep talk,” Coffey said. “I was like, ‘You're Barbra Streisand and they love you and you can do it!’ Then she goes out there and it's BARBRA, and she sings like someone from another planet. She's gifted. It's interesting that she doesn't know that sometimes.”

Jacquey Maltby was another backup singer for the final four Timeless concerts. “We actually rehearsed for almost two weeks. We did not see Barbra the first few days and then when she came in, we ran the numbers with her once and that was really it till the first night. We watched her rehearse all the rest of the show, and that was fabulous. But we didn't run 'The Main Event' with her but once. We worked with a stand-in most of the time.”


Timeless poster

(Above: A Timeless poster, with ticket stubs lower left. Photo courtesy Karim Hassam.)

Jay Landers' liner notes for the Timeless CD explained Barbra's rehearsal process at Dress Rehearsal for this big concert:

If there is any tension in the air tonight, it's due to the giant overhead L.E.D. screens, intended to videocast private and professional milestones from Barbra's eventful life—they seem to have taken on a rebellious personality of their own ... And while everyone around her is scurrying, Barbra seems unfazed ...

After more technical delays, Barbra and the orchestra finally take the stage at 8:45 p.m. ... another long evening in store.

Co-director Kenny Ortega told Sydney, Australia's The Sunday Telegraph: “The electricity I felt when the curtains opened in Las Vegas was one of the most fulfilling experiences I have ever enjoyed.”

Second show added advert

Barbra's Performance Attire

(Below) Barbra designed her garments for the Timeless shows, including alternate pieces for her first act outfit: a wrap, a skirt, and a full top.

Timeless garments

Burgundy taffeta gown

(Photo, above): Streisand designed a burgundy taffeta gown with empire waist for the second act of Timeless. Underneath the gown was a crinoline hoop to give the garment volume.

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