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GREAT PERFORMANCES: Barbra Streisand: Back To Brooklyn

Airs Wednesday, December 10, 2014 at 9:30 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Barbra Streisand

“I love people from Brooklyn. Because they’re real. Down to earth. They tell it like it is.” So Barbra Streisand informs an adoring audience at the opening of her heralded hometown return at the brand new 19,000-seat, billion-dollar Barclays Center. "Barbra Streisand: Back to Brooklyn" airs on THIRTEEN’s GREAT PERFORMANCES as part of the PBS Arts Fall Festival.

Courtesy of Russell James/Copyright Barwood Films, Ltd.

Barbra Streisand

Courtesy of Russell James/Copyright Barwood Films, Ltd.

Barbra Streisand and Il Volo.

Courtesy of Russell James/Copyright Barwood Films, Ltd.

Chris Botti with Barbra Streisand.

Courtesy of Russell James/Copyright Barwood Films, Ltd.

Jason Gould with Barbra Streisand.

Courtesy of PBS

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Mixing her trademark classics with rarer older material and selections from her more recent albums, Streisand, in her first concert appearance in six years, and backed by a 60-piece orchestra led by William Ross, keeps the capacity house enthralled. In all, she sings 27 songs, nine of which she never before performed live, and three which she sings in different ways; that is, either with different arrangements or with newly composed lyrics.

Streisand masterfully holds the stage for two hours, joined by special guests Il Volo, trumpeter Chris Botti, and (making it a true family affair) son Jason Gould, who thrilled the audience singing solo and in a duet with his mother.

Elegantly gowned by Donna Karan, she plays to those in front, to the sides, and behind her. Some had flown halfway around the world to see this iconic and beloved performer in person. Utterly at ease, Streisand chats with the audience as casually as if they were in her living room.

The songs are framed by multi-faceted video montages of Streisand’s childhood and early career. Her alma mater Erasmus High School, the Loews Kings Theatre, the Dodgers, her yeshiva, Brighton Beach and Brooklyn Heights all figure in her reminiscences. The superstar left her fourth-floor apartment at 3102 Newkirk Avenue (one of three residences at which she lived as a child) when she was 16 to pursue her acting career, and the rest is history. She joked that “the last time…(she) sang in Brooklyn was on a stoop on Pulaski Street.”

Specially adapted lyrics to “As If We Never Said Goodbye” and “You’re the Top” pay humorous homage to the borough. Among the vocal highlights is a medley of Jule Styne show tunes. Styne wrote the music to Streisand’s Broadway and Hollywood megahit “Funny Girl.” In that medley, Streisand also gives us a tantalizing glimpse of what her Mama Rose might sound like if she proceeds with her hoped-for remake of Styne and Sondheim’s “Gypsy.”

Throughout the concert, she sings selections from every stage of her career, including “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered” (which she sang during her memorable appearance on “The Judy Garland Show” in 1963); “Enough is Enough (No More Tears)” (her disco hit with the late Donna Summer); “My Funny Valentine” (from her 1967 album “Simply Streisand”); and “The Way We Were” (in loving tribute to Marvin Hamlisch who unexpectedly passed away in August 2012).

And then there are songs from her more recent albums like “Nice ‘N’ Easy,” “That Face,” “Some Other Time,” and “Here’s to Life.” The concert also includes “Make Our Garden Grow” from Leonard Bernstein’s “Candide,” a song she recorded for an unreleased Broadway album in 1988. Here, she’s backed by the Brooklyn Youth Chorus.

Her two nights in Brooklyn were followed by a national tour which included Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Chicago, Vancouver, Las Vegas, San Jose, and Los Angeles, continuing on to Europe in 2013, with stops in London, Amsterdam, Cologne, Berlin, and Tel Aviv, where she was greeted by more devoted crowds and critical accolades.

Critics all over the world were unanimous in praise of Streisand. Stephen Holden in The New York Times observed, “Like few singers of any age, she has the gift of conveying a primal human longing in a beautiful sound.” Charles McNulty of The Los Angeles Times wrote that her performance provided “a chance to spend quality time with a legend and enjoy the sights and sounds of her alternate reality.” And Bernard Perusse of The Montreal Gazette observed, “Streisand has always done it with elegance and a peerless voice. She is truly, it seems, the last of her kind.”

Barbra Streisand is on Facebook, and you can follow @BarbraStreisand on Twitter. GREAT PERFORMANCES is on Facebook. Past episodes of GREAT PERFORMANCES are available for online viewing.

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Video

Great Performances: Barbra Streisand: Back To Brooklyn Preview

Above: The legendary Barbra Streisand makes a historic homecoming to Brooklyn at the new Barclays Center arena, marking the superstar’s first Brooklyn concert since her childhood years. Joined by special guests Il Volo and Chris Botti, Streisand performs an extensive selection of songs from throughout her five-decade career, including a touching duet with her son, Jason Gould.

Video

Streisand's "You're the Top" Brooklyn Tribute

Above: Barbra Streisand pays tribute to her hometown of Brooklyn by giving the lyrics of “You’re the Top” a special twist. “You’re the Top” was written by Cole Porter for the 1934 musical, "Anything Goes." Streisand alters the lyrics using quintessential Brooklyn references, such as the neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant (”Bedford-Stuy”), cool rabbis, fellow Brooklynite and music star Jay-Z, the Brooklyn Dodgers, egg creams, and the basketball team the Brooklyn Nets, whose home arena, the Barclays Center, hosted her "Back to Brooklyn" concert.

Video

Barbra Streisand Sings "Smile" With Il Volo Preview

Above: Watch Barbra duet with Il Volo on "Smile" from her landmark "Back To Brooklyn" concert special premiering on PBS on Friday, November 29, 2013.

Video

Barbra Streisand and Chris Botti Perform "Evergreen"

Above: Watch Barbra perform "Evergreen" with special guest Chris Botti from her "Back To Brooklyn" show!