The Concert (HBO & CBS Broadcast) (1994/95)
Barbra Streisand returned to television again in 1994 on HBO — which had aired her previous two specials.
This time, HBO would air a full length concert. The trouble was that fans did not know which concert would air. Apparently, neither did HBO! Streisand's camp had videotaped both the Las Vegas concert that began the tour, as well as the Anaheim concert which ended it. Which would television viewers see on August 21st? Liz Smith reported that Streisand had sequestered herself in a CBS editing suite and that the editing and looping process had taken much work.
New York Magazine reported that Streisand had editors flown into Los Angeles “to help re-edit the show two days before the airdate.” The Concert was delivered to HBO three hours before it was supposed to air.
On the evening of August 21, 1994, HBO began an onscreen countdown one half hour before the concert began. HBO aired short Streisand featurettes in between promos for upcoming movies and specials.
The Streisand shorts included documentary footage and interviews with key people like Marty Erlichman, Marvin Hamlisch and Marilyn Bergman. The shorts were confusing because they utilized what appeared to be concert footage from the Las Vegas shows.
When the concert finally aired on HBO, fans were watching the final Anaheim show, taped at the Arrowhead Pond on July 24, 1994. (Note: Some songs and footage from the Vegas shows were incorporated seamlessly into the HBO special—specifically, "Not While I'm Around" and the opening verse of "The Way We Were" were lifted from the Vegas footage, as well as several audience reaction shots).
Filming in Anaheim
Several Streisand fans attended the Anaheim show and stayed afterwards for additional filming.
After singing the last song ("Somewhere") Barbra told the audience they were taping the show and requested they stay for some additional takes of songs. "I have to come on and sing 'Evergreen'. Then I have to change my outfit to a different color of white ... but you'll be on TV now!"
Barbra and her television crew did a 'take' of "Evergreen."
"Marvin," Barbra said, "You have to make the people laugh while I change my whites [her white outfit in the 2nd Act], okay? Because this other one has to be for another show that's going to be on August 21st. HBO!"
Marvin Hamlisch talked to the audience on a microphone and played for them while Barbra changed outfits.
Then Barbra came out again and sang "Somewhere," including her spoken introduction.
Next Barbra introduced some "pickups for 'The Way We Were'," because they needed some closeups for the television taping. Barbra joked her way through the song, talking between lyric lines, but got serious for the last 1/3 of the song.
"Do you mind doing 'You Don't Bring Me Flowers' again?" The audience laughed, as if she had to ask! As Marvin Hamlisch readied the orchestra, someone yelled out to Barbra about another tour. "My next tour? In 27 years." The audience laughed and applauded. Someone else yelled out "Stoney End" and Barbra said, "Another lifetime ago..."
After confirming with Hamlisch that the Anaheim orchestra knew “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?” Streisand walked to the top of the stairs and began singing the song. After two lines: “I don't like it up here, let's do it down there.” More audience adulation. “I hope this doesn't ruin the illusion of it all,” she said to the Anaheim crowd. Sitting center stage on a stool, she sang a captivating version of “WAYDTROYL” (the one which appeared as a bonus on the Blockbuster video version).
Barbra then thanked everyone for staying and left the stage.
After the audience left the show, Streisand returned again to re-film a section of the Yentl medley since, during the show, there was a lighting problem. Streisand poised herself at the edge of her stool and confirmed with director Dwight Hemion (over a loudspeaker) the exact position she was holding her microphone during the show, so the shots matched. “Continuity is important, isn't it?” she asked out loud. For the shot, the first three rows of chairs in front of the stage were removed so the camera could get a perfect shot not possible during the actual show. Streisand began the pickup shot with her Yentl patter and went into singing “Will Someone Ever Look At Me That Way?” Hemion interupted the take: “Stop, Barbra, you've got a shiny spon on your forehead.” Makeup was applied, then Streisand noticed herself in the mirror. “There's a white line under my eye. Did this show all night? Did it show up during the show?” Smith said he didn't notice, and Streisand composed herself for another take. Singing “Will Someone,” then moving into “A Piece of Sky,” Streisand sang for a small audience of about 30 people. “That was good,” she announced to Hemion after she finished. “There was one note, but I know we can fix that later.”
After that, (and close to 12:30 a.m.) Annie Liebovitz captured a group photo of Barbra and the orchestra.
Producer Gary Smith said “Barbra has always, and I mean always, been a director of the TV work she’s done. You know as well as anyone that her involvement is extensive and detailed. Her knowledge of directing, even in the earlier days, was very complete — the look, the cameras, the staging. Once she truly became a director in films, I’m sure she felt equally at ease, even with Dwight, in being quite vocal and insistent with her judgments and opinions. Not always the most tactful in transmitting her thoughts, she has always been so knowledgeable that she’s able to say things in a way that other performers would perhaps not get away with. The concepts of The Concert were almost entirely Barbra’s and the Bergmans’, with input from Marvin Hamlisch. 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. I believe, unlike other television endeavors we’ve done together, we were there more to record and edit Barbra’s event, as opposed to the more unified concept approach.”
5 million households watched the HBO show (about 11.2 million viewers).
Barbra: The Concert won several awards. When she was awarded the prestigious Peabody Award (which she first won for My Name is Barbra), Barbra said, “There comes a time when one feels the obligation and the desire to give back to the people who've kept you there, to exercise whatever talents God has given you, and to fully engage in the fear, as well as the excitement of the creative process. It's nice when it works and somehow you and your audience feel satisfied. That is the reward. But then to be given the prestigious Peabody—whether it was 30 years ago or today—is an honor that I shall treasure the rest of my life.”
Barbra also won Emmy Awards for the show — Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program and Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Special.
Barbra: The Concert had a second life after its airing on HBO. In May of 1995, CBS aired an alternate version of The Concert which included a short version of the Linda Richman skit from Las Vegas, the Disney Medley (from Vegas, too), and "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life" (which was shot in Anaheim). All the new material was edited into the show seamlessly, and commercial breaks were added as well.
The home video of The Concert —which was released on September 27, 1994 (Oct. 4 on laserdisc)—included “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life” at the end of the VHS tape — but only on copies purchased at Blockbuster Video. Blockbuster was sued for exclusivity because they were selling an exclusive version of the VHS tape with extra material that was not being made available to other retailers. A laserdisc version (with the bonus song) was also released and is out of print. The VHS tape is out of print.
Barbra: The Concert (Anaheim) was finally released on DVD as part of a 3-DVD set in April 2009. (Unfortunately, “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life” was not included on the DVD).
“Live at the MGM Grand” DVD
On March 30, 2004, Sony BMG released a DVD of The Concert: Live at the MGM Grand, taped in Las Vegas. This was a record of Barbra's performances on December 31, 1993 and January 1, 1994.
Live at the MGM Grand is substantially different than Barbra: The Concert. In the MGM Grand concert, Barbra wore a different gown in the first act. She also sang her songs in a different order, including songs that were not in the Anaheim show. Conversely, “Lazy Afternoon” and the Yentl medley—both sung in Anaheim—were not on the Las Vegas special (because Barbra did not sing them in Vegas!).
More differences: On the MGM DVD, the Mike Myers guest appearance is longer than what they used on the CBS broadcast. Several lines have been reinserted, making the skit funnier ("Don't toy with me, I'm not a play-thing.")
Also, "Not While I'm Around" is the same on both the Las Vegas DVD and the Anaheim special—the only difference is that in Anaheim, Barbra said her son Jason was there "tonight and opening night." On the Las Vegas DVD, Barbra said Jason was there "tonight and last night."
“The reason Vegas was never used that much,” explained producer Gary Smith, “is that the cameras had to be pulled back out of the way, and the lighting was designed for the live event rather than the TV taping. These are formidable differences in the approach to a final product on tape. Anaheim was done for the TV show, with special set-ups and more consideration for television. One of the most significant differences between the two concerts is Barbra’s reliance on the TelePrompTer. Obviously, at the end of the tour, she had become much more familiar with her dialogue and therefore didn’t need to constantly focus on those screens. However, even with her limited experience with prompters, she handled that aspect remarkably well.”
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