REVIEW: Liza Pulman sings Streisand (The Lyric Theatre) ★★★

A gentle evening of light entertainment.

Liza Pulman, on a break from her usual guise as one third of the brilliant Fascinating Aida, brings us her homage to the legend that is Barbra Streisand.

The evening starts with a brief musical overture from the fabulous six-piece band before Pulman takes to the stage and opens with “Don’t rain on my parade.” From here we are taken backwards and forwards through Streisand’s career with Pulman providing various stories and anecdotes from both her own and Streisand’s life.

Across two 45 minute halves, we are treated to some instantly recognisable and some (to me) unknown Streisand songs covering everything from an early teenage recording, a bizarre but sassy audition song, through Streisand’s two Broadway musicals and on to her later hits and interpretations of other writers’ songs.

Pulman is keen early in the show to tell us that this is not an impersonation but an interpretation of Streisand with fresh arrangements of some songs developed with her musical director Joseph Atkins. The result is an interesting although slightly uneven performance; at times Pulman does seem to be impersonating Streisand’s Brooklyn drawl while at others she sings with a crystal clear, cut glass English accent.

Pulman openly acknowledges the challenge of creating an hour and a half show from Ms Streisand’s six decade career and accepts that she is unable to keep everyone happy with her song choices, including her own husband! It therefore did strike me as a little odd to include “New York State of Mind” a song so intrinsically linked with Billy Joel and just a 1977 album track for Streisand.

On a personal note, I have always found “You don’t bring me flowers”, Streisand’s chart-topping duet with Neil Diamond to be a heart-breaking song, awash with emotion as both parties detail the demise of their relationship. Sung solo as Pulman does here, it loses the gut-wrenching feeling of the original.

For the most part this show zips along. Liza Pulman is a fabulous singer and provides an enjoyable, interesting and, in parts, very funny evening.

Reviewed by Lara Southworth

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