Riviera Hotel

Las Vegas, Nevada

8:00 pm and Midnight

The Versailles Room

November 27—December 10, 1970

Streisand on stage with Kendricks Singers

Riviera menu with Streisand

(Above: Riviera postcard with Streisand; and an ad for Streisand's upcoming shows.)


Pat Henry (Opening Comedy Act)

Jack Cathcart Orchestra

Claus Ogerman — Arranger & Conductor
Eddie Kendricks Singers
Ray Neapolitan — Bass Guitarist
Mark Stevens — drums

Barbra doesn't mention her Las Vegas gigs often—one guess is that she was contractually required to complete them, which may have made the work unpleasant for her. She signed a contract with the Riviera in 1963 while opening for Liberace and it took her until 1970 to honor it. She and her manager managed to “kill two birds with one stone” when they booked her at the International Hotel (later named “The Hilton”) the week after she closed at the Riviera, thus completing both contracts.

At the Riviera, Streisand developed a new show that included an opening act—comedian Pat Henry. Claus Ogerman (who produced the Classical Barbra album) arranged and conducted the Jack Cathcart Orchestra. Barbra eschewed the big wigs she wore in 1969 at The International Hotel and included more modern songs from her new album, Stoney End, in the new act. The Eddie Kendricks Singers sang backup and lent a hip 1970's feel to the arrangements.

Exterior or Riviera Hotel

(Above: Liza Minnelli played the Riviera—Pat Henry opened for her, too—in October 1970)

Streisand performs live on stage at the Riviera

Streisand's Riviera Hotel Set List:

* Barbra would alternate these songs at some performances, singing one instead of the other.


Barbra Streisand wasn't old enough to vote when she first appeared here, in the Versailles Room of the Riviera Hotel, on the same bill with Liberace. I saw that show. It was a show whose audience was attuned to the Liberace format. Yet Barbra, who was on about twenty minutes, captured that audience with the early magic that was to eventually make her a show business blockbuster. And blockbuster she is. She is currently appearing here in that very same room and the waiting lines are the longest I've ever seen at the Riviera for the Versailles Room. Barbra Streisand is, without a doubt, superb talent. I know I have said this here many times before. But after witnessing her latest performance I am moved to say it again even at the risk of being branded too big a Streisand fan for my own good.

I have come to expect the unexpected from Barbra Streisand. For example, who would open a show with “Somebody Come And Play With Me,” the delightful little children's tune from the immensely popular “Sesame Street” television show? Well, Barbra did and she turned it into a highly effective opener. After captivating her audience with this bit of the unexpected, she mentioned that it was on the show because it was requested by her young son Jason Gould. Children's songs are nothing new to Barbra. Remember “Who's Afraid Of The Big Bad Wolf?”—it was one of her early hits.

Children's songs aside, standard supper club tunes are also missing from a Streisand show. There are numerous songs associated with her which she naturally sings because audiences expect them. “Don't Rain On My Parade,” “People,” “Second Hand Rose,” and “Happy Days Are Here Again” are all Streisand classics. And like all classics, one never tires of hearing them. Above all, Barbra brings out the very best in a song's lyrics. I have heard many singers, in many clubs on this beat, offer interpretations of Jimmy Webb's great song, “Didn't We.” I call it a great song because it is. Most singers give it a creditable rendition though the song itself stands on its own. However, Barbra Streisand brought out the true meaning of this song with a very sensitive approach to its lyrics and the message those lyrics convey.

There were other impressive numbers. In one segment of “I've Never Been A Woman Before”, Barbra was backed by a rhythm section blending beautifully with only an added oboe playing a counter melody. It was an exciting example of how this singer makes an art out of a pop tune. Then, there are the musical intervals as in “When The Sun Comes Out.” The song has a wide range and not the easiest of intervals. Barbra, to say the least, makes it all sound easy. Small wonder then that the Jack Cathcart orchestra, ably directed by Claus Ogerman, backed her so well. She stimulated them to rise to the occasion, and there is so much more and hardly enough space to say it. Suffice to say that Barbra Streisand stands alone, a blockbuster among blockbusters.

Sharing the bill is comedian Pat Henry. I have followed his career now for several years through engagements with Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Tom Jones. He is, at present, at his very best. Preceding a performer the magnitude of Barbra Streisand doesn't guarantee audience response, especially on a dinner show. That you have to earn on your own, and Pat does with a well-paced array of funny material from ethnic to local comment. To use an old phrase, “He broke 'em up.”

Streisand on stage in Vegas

(Above: Streisand puts her “cigarette” out on stage. She performed her “marijuana smoking” bit at the Riviera. Below: Zefferelli and the Bergmans chat with Barbra after her opening night at the Riviera.)

Zefferelli and Streisand backstage at Riviera

Variety Review, 1970

Barbra Streisand, with Ed Kendricks Singers (4); Pat Henry, Jack Cathcart Orch (32); $16.50 minimum

The third time really is the charm for Barbra Streisand. She is working out a Riviera Hotel contract from 1963, when she appeared in Vegas for the first time raising the curtain for Liberace. Last year, her lauded opening of the International was not the success d'estime it should have been. This time, however, the magic is all there and make no mistake about that. From her almost shy walk-on until the standing ovation tribute, opening nighters reveled in every nuance of the Streisand oeuvre. The voice is in perfect shape, taking her on some of the most difficult tune trips imaginable, but there's never a slip, crack or falter. There are many of the top faves among the 15 songs in her log, yet some of the most impassioned deliveries occur during several numbers not considered typical Streisand fare. There's a great gospel shout, "Let Me Go," with the potent Ed Kendricks Singers, a black quartet (three femmes and Kendricks), another belter in "When the Sun Comes Out," contrasted by a wistful, almost stream-of-consciousness whisper of "I Don't Know Where I Stand." Two rockers are included, wailed with a fine sense of the beat, and the ending of "Happy Days" and "Oh Happy Day" is a righteous, jumping paean that builds and keeps on socking the audience riff after riff. Most of the charts are by her 88er-conductor Claus Ogerman, and they are ne plus ultra examples of the craft. The Jack Cathcart musickers give excellent support as Ogerman guides them along the way, supported rhythmically by bass guitarist, Ray Neapolitan and the aide she refers to as her "drummist," Mark Stevens. In addenda to her overall performance, the interim talk sessions must be complimented. Miss Streisand has a kook humor that conveys itself quickly and definitely. From her confidential confession on nervousness in a brief tea-sipping monology on Las Vegas history and her love of old things, Miss Streisand has everyone palmed, but good.

Riviera Advertisement

Another review, from opening night:

... In her return Friday, she combined some of the expected (such songs as “People” and “On A Clear Day”) with the unexpected (“Oh Happy Day”) in a 60-minute performance.

When she walked on stage she seemed terribly nervous. During her last engagement at the International Hotel here, some had complained about a coldness in her opening night show. She later explained to Charles Champlin, the Times entertainment editor, that she had rediscovered a fear of live audiences in that engagement, her first night club appearance in six years. “I was in a state of shock,” she said. By the end of that engagement last year, however, she had regained a sense of balance and drew highly favorable reviews.

In the opening numbers Friday, there was something in her voice, a tightness in her manner. She was not, during the early part of the show, the outgoing, relaxed headliner one expects to see here.

After her fourth song, however, she worked in some comments about her nervousness into her monologue and seemed to gain confidence from it. The enthusiastic audience response to some surprisingly effective rock-flavored numbers (“Let Me Go” and “No Easy Way Down”) seemed to give her even greater confidence.

She had overcome the nervousness.

Besides that superb voice, she has the stamp of an original vocal interpreter. When she sings a song, it comes out with her own definite stamp. She seems more than anything else filled with a need to be different, to be someone special on stage. She doesn't just want to be acclaimed or popular, she wants to be a true artist.

There was a special emotional depth in her voice and projection on such songs as Jim Webb's “Didn't We?” She was now in full control of the situation.

Outside in the casino, the dice were rolling endlessly. There were some winners and losers. But there was no question that inside the Riviera showroom, Miss Streisand had defended her crown.

In a prize fight, they would have raised her hand in triumph after her show. As it was, she had to settle for a long, enthusiastic standing ovation.

She will be at the Riviera through Dec. 10, then will move over to the International Hotel for three weeks beginning Dec. 13. The unusual back-to-back engagements result from a long-standing contract commitment at the Riviera. She is now under long-term contract to the International.

—Robert Hilburn, LA Times


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