Las Vegas, Nevada
December 31, 1993 & January 1, 1994
When Barbra Streisand announced she was returning to the concert stage, fans were ecstatic. Two shows at Las Vegas' MGM Grand Hotel sold out in minutes.
Six weeks before her shows, Barbra told Barbara Walters there were many reasons why she was returning to the concert stage. “I think it's a challenge. I think the fans, my public, they want to see me perform. It's almost like something they feel I withhold from them. And in a way, maybe I was. Thing is, I was ready to sing. I was ready to face this fear.”
Behind the scenes, Barbra enlisted the aid of Marilyn and Alan Bergman to help write the show. Marvin Hamlisch would musically direct and arrange the music. Barbra's manager Marty Erlichman executive produced the show.
Gary Smith, who produced the TV special of Barbra's concert said, "The look of the stage, the placement of the orchestra, the various song segments, the video inserts were almost entirely Barbra’s concepts and execution ... There were many informal rehearsals at [Barbra's] home, around the piano, but the first formal look was on a sound stage at Sony Studios where the entire Concert was rehearsed with the orchestra, with the film projections and TelePrompTers, etc. That would have been just a week or so before the Vegas opening, probably just before Christmas ."
In September 1993, designer Arnold Scaasi got a call from Streisand. She wanted him to design her clothes for the concert. "We started by remaking a black satin crepe full-sleeved long dress that I had designed in the seventies," Scaasi wrote, "and a pink-and-white crepe-and-embroidered organdy evening pajama from the late sixties. We talked a lot about how she wanted to look for the world tour but she was so unsure that I couldn't get a handle on it—it seemed we were both confused."
Streisand's friend Donna Karan ended up designing Barbra's concert look. Karan offered Streisand many options, as witnessed in Barbra's 2004 auction catalog. Karan designed off-the-shoulder black, burgundy, and navy blue gowns, some with turtleneck tops (see below). But for opening night, Streisand decided on a cream silk under-dress, pleated at the bottom, with a black velvet over-dress, open down the front and edged with rhinestones. Barbra looked elegant and gorgeous.
Putting It Together ...
The orchestra, some of Los Angeles' finest musicians, was assembled for the first time the week of December 13, 1993. They worked with Marvin Hamlisch in the mornings, then Streisand arrived in the afternoons and sang through the show as the Bergmans refined the script.
On Tuesday, December 20th, Streisand and orchestra performed Act One for an invited audience of friends and associates.
Much like the opening of a Broadway show, the cast and crew of The Concert then found themselves on the "real" stage of the MGM Grand on December 27th. Gary Smith and crew then spent December 28th blocking out the cameras for the taping of the live show.
December 29th was a dress rehearsal of Act One. On December 30th, Mike Myers joined Streisand for a dress rehearsal of Act Two.
Early scripts of Barbra's concert included the song "Being At War With Each Other," which would have been sung after "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" in the second act. Barbra was to introduce it saying, "Despite all our differences—in size, shape, color, gender—we're all more alike than we think ... So, why then is it so hard for us to get along with one another? It should be so simple..."
A medley of "Carefully Taught/Children Will Listen" was to follow the Disney Medley, but was cut—and was later performed by Barbra, once, in London. Thirteen years later, Barbra sang a different arrangement of the medley in her North American and European concert tour.
Finally, "I've Never Been In Love Before" was considered, too. Barbra was to have sung it after "I'll Know" in the first act, but was cut. It would have been a mini-Guys and Dolls medley.
Barbra and her orchestra had spent weeks gearing up for opening night, December 31, 1993.
Larry Olson wrote an article for All About Barbra magazine about how much work went into these shows:
The ongoing strive for the best did not end after the first concert. On Saturday, January 1st, during a two-hour rehearsal, 'we tried every conceivable ending for People,' sources said. Several band members felt the soft, dream-like ending to the song used on Friday didn't get the audience response it should. They suggested a different ending be used. The written score 'had alternate endings labelled Broadway, Studio, Movie, and Concert and from there we tried even more ideas,' a source said. 'Add horns, take horns out. Up an octave, down an octave, leave a bar in, take a bar out. Lengthen the ending, shorten the ending. It was incredible. We played different endings, then tried another and another and another.' The ending performed Saturday night for People was a huge, full-blown one, and the audience response was even bigger than the night before.
Finally, on December 31, 1993, Streisand walked on stage at the MGM Grand to a tremendous standing ovation from the audience. Jay Leno and the Tonight Show (with special correspondent, Richard Simmons) broadcast a few minutes of the opening number. Streisand appeared visibly nervous.
Streisand Set List—MGM Grand Concerts
December 31, 1993 & January 1, 1994 Set List:
- As If We Never Said Goodbye
- I'm Still Here/Everybody Says Don't/Don't Rain On My Parade (Medley)
- Can't Help Lovin' That Man
- I'll Know (with Marlon Brando)
- People *
- Lover Man (Oh, Where Can You Be?)
- Will He Like Me?
- He Touched Me
- I'm In The Mood For Love/Speak Low/Guilty (Medley)
- What Is This Thing Called Love?
- The Man That Got Away
- On A Clear Day (You Can See Forever)
* different ending on 12/31 show
- The Way We Were
- You Don't Bring Me Flowers
- Since I Fell For You **
- Special Appearance with Linda Richman (Mike Myers)
- Once Upon A Dream/When You Wish Upon A Star/ Someday My Prince Will Come (Medley)
- Not While I'm Around
- Ordinary Miracles
- Happy Days Are Here Again
- My Man
- For All We Know
** performed at the 12/31 show only
Mike Myers appeared as his Saturday Night Live character, Linda Richman, in a skit with Barbra in the second act. The character of Linda Richman is actually based on Myers' real-life mother-in-law, Linda Ruzan. Ruzan, in a 1994 article in People Magazine, relayed her experience attending "The Concert":
That 1994 New Year's concert was a farklemtfest. Myers — who briefly joined Streisand onstage in his Richman getup (Babs had put in a "Coffee Talk" cameo on SNL in 1992) — introduced his mother-in-law to the star at a rehearsal. Recalls Ruzan: "I said to her, `I waited 30 years to meet you, but I'm going to kiss my daughter first.' And I walked over and hugged and kissed Robin and Mike, just to gain my equilibrium." She describes Streisand as a "teeny-tiny, skinny white little angel. She kissed and hugged me, and I just thought to myself , `Oh, my good God, this is more than I can bear.' "
Steven Sondheim wrote new lyrics to his song "I'm Still Here" for Barbra. The song, as performed in Vegas, was a bit longer than what Barbra sang on the road:
... I've sung in choirs, I've sung in cellars and bars, and I'm here!
Clubs full of buyers, fancy saloons full of stars, and I'd hear...
“Don't tell me she designed those clothes, even the needy don't need those. If she won't cap her teeth, she should cap her nose, never fear...
She'll disappear in a year,” — But I'm here!
They used to say "talent she's got but those screeches, sounds like her throats in a sling!"
And now they say, "Talent she's got but those speeches, Why can't she shut up and sing?!"
The Crowd (and Critics) Go Wild
Barbra's pal, designer Donna Karan, created many looks for Streisand to wear. (A) The gown which Barbra wore during the first act (it sold for $6,000 at Barbra's 2004 auction); (B) A burgundy dress with a turtle neck; (C) A cowl-necked black dress made from Rayon/Spandex; (D) A white version of Streisand's Anaheim gown, made of crepe silk jersey with a two-layered skirt; (E) Barbra's tour wool overcoat (Barbra wore this in London).
Streisand was photographed by Firooz Zahedi backstage with many of the celebrities who came to see the show.
Continued: 1994 Concert Tour >>
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