Barbra and Frank … Who’da Thunk?
LAS VEGAS, Nevada– Many years ago, my late husband Gerry and I used to make Vegas our winter getaway. That was a time when things were simple, the Strip was The Strip and deals were so abundant you could almost write your own ticket between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. I can’t even begin to tell you how many of the then stars we saw either in large (remember the long tables?) show rooms or in lounge ‘show rooms’. It was a cornucopia of choices and as easy as walking through the casino and into a show room.
Oh sure, there were lines and some sort of a pecking order and slipping the ‘seater’ some higher denomination of a bill folded into thirds was an expected, unspoken bonus for him. (I don’t ever remember a ‘her’). He always took a peek at the amount before weaving paid patrons through a sea of tables and chairs. It was never a question of ‘IF’ you had a seat. It was always a guessing game of ‘Where’ that seat would be. I never did figure that policy out, but for the most part we, I’m sure, were never on the highest priority list in the pecking order of things.
Not in any particular order, we did manage to see Dionne Warwick, Fats Domino, Tom Jones, Bobby Vinton, Jack Jones, (I know I’m dating myself) Jane Powell, Jack Benny, Steve Lawrence and Edyie Gorme, Don Rickles, Jack E. Leonard, Barbara Eden, Juliet Prowse, Totie Fields, Shecky Green, B.B. King, The Follies Bergere, Hallelujah Hollywood, Casino De Paris, Andy Williams, Neil Sedaka and Barbra Streisand. I’m, sure memory has failed on some level, but this is the best I can do for now. Later on in our writing career, we managed to see quite a few more, but with Press Credentials, come perks. We were then directed to the VIP line. Some things in life, like wine, get better with age.
That brings us to the present where ‘The Strip’ doesn’t resemble ‘The Strip’ as I knew it and the shows are big productions and the casinos are all themed and it takes a marathon ready body to make it from one end of a building to the next and rooms are in towers and slot machines are digitized (if that’s a word), and 1cent machines need a dollar to pay anything and showrooms are built for specific shows and what goes on in Vegas doesn’t stay there anymore. I just brought the worse cold home with me after a weeklong stay with dear friends who are new residents there.
While there however, I did get to see the 90 min Phantom in a theatre made especially for that Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical. We, the audience are made to feel as if we are sitting in an actual opera house. What can I say, several millions of dollars can buy an awful lot but the condensed no intermission musical is effective and a welcome relief from the over two hour show we see that comes through many cities.
We also saw small venue musical tribute at Le Bistro at the Riviera Hotel (now that’s out of the past and way down on what used to be the Strip) to Ole Blue Eyes and Barbra Streisand called, Barbara & Frank The Concert that Never Was starring Sebastian Anzaldo and Sharon Owen.
It is a dandy of a show and Ms. Owen is a very good look a like Ms. Streisand. She sounds a lot like the diva and her body language, small talk and those long nails reinforce her persona. Anzaldo is charming, easy going and while his looks are not as conspicuously Sinatra, his voice is smooth he’s dapper looking and his delivery engaging. The two are at ease with each other, finishing sentences and talking as if they best friends even though their paths crossed very seldom. He works better with her than without and she is perfectly suited as a single or in concert with Anzaldo.
She works well with the piano player who also gets a few bars in of his own during the hour and half performance. Videos and taped orchestrations play an important part in giving the show a bigger feeling. I would like have liked just the piano and the vocalists for a few of the numbers. Le Bistro is a rather small and intimate setting and some of the sound design was a bit too much for the size of the room.
Just about all the musical numbers will sound familiar starting off with “I’ve got a Crush On You”. The two jibe and poke at each other making the audiences feel right at home as they go through their repertoire: “Luck Be A Lady”, sequences from Funny Girl including “Second Hand Rose”, “People”, Don’t Rain On My Parade”, “Memories” and “Woman In Love”. He counters with “I’ve Got The world On A String”, “Strangers In The Night”, “My Way”, and “That’s Life”. They join together in “It Was A Very Good Year” and “The Way We Were”.
Other memorable tunes include “Papa Can You Hear Me?” “They Can’t Take That Away From Me”, “All Of Me”, “Witchcraft”, “Come Fly With Me”, “Happy Days Are Here Again” and “Somewhere”. The ‘60’s and ‘70’s will roll past in fond memories while these two gifted impersonators give it their joking and bantering with each other as well as with the audience. From time to time it almost feels as if Streisand is actually on stage.
As of now the show is having an open run. The Riviera is on 2901 S. Las Vegas Blvd. and tickets are $49.95 plus taxes and fee; Add $10.00 per ticket for VIP seating. All shows run Tues. through Sun. and are at 8:30 pm.
See you at the theatre.
Davis is a San Diego-based theatre reviewer