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).
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.
CBS Broadcast & Home Video
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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