Barbra Streisand: From Funny Girl to Funny Momma

Legendary Jewish singer talks family, Romney and environment at first show of her "Back to Brooklyn" tour.

Barbra Streisand performs during Marvin Hamlisch tribute 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)
Barbra Streisand performs during Marvin Hamlisch tribute 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)
Superstar singer Barbra Streisand opened her Back to Brooklyn tour with a spectacular concert at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia Monday evening.
Accompanied by a great orchestra, she belted out in top form many of her old hits such as “The Way He Makes Me Feel” from Yentl and “The Way We Were,” which she dedicated to the memory of her frequent collaborator Marvin Hamlisch.
Her voice (and cleavage) were better than many of the stars half her age that are currently touring.
On October 11 and 13, Streisand was scheduled to return to perform for the first time in her hometown of Brooklyn at the Barclays Center.
We saw a new Barbra on stage during the performance – Funny Girl has matured into Funny Momma. Jason Gould, her son by actor Elliot Gould, joined her on stage for his first public performance as a singer. She introduced him to her loyal fans with a short movie that he made for her 70th birthday. It was a beautiful montage of pictures of them together through the years accompanied by his singing a song that he had written.
A star was born on the stage. He is already being compared to Josh Groban.
The newcomer more than held his own in a duet of “How Deep Is the Ocean” with his superstar mother. The proud mother sat on the steps kvelling while her son performed solo.
“I will be right over here if you need me, but I know you won’t,” she said as she sat down.
Streisand was joined on stage by acclaimed trumpeter Chris Botti. She met Botti where all superstars meet.
“I am not one to drop addresses. I kept running into Botti at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the White House,” she explained.
Il Volo, the trio of Italian tenors, also performed with Streisand. When they exited stage right to great applause, she joked, “Take that, Justin Bieber.”
One very intimate part of the concert was the “Ask Barbra” segment. Before the concert, fans could stop by a booth and write down questions for the superstar to answer on stage.
One concertgoer asked what Streisand thought about Republican nominee Mitt Romney eliminating Big Bird. At first, she hesitated.
Babs, a longtime Democrat, said, “I love Big Bird. I was not going to talk about politics tonight.” Then she couldn’t resist. “I hope Romney never finds Sesame Street or 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,” she said.
“How about that debate? Romney sounded like a proper Democrat.”
Streisand ended her concert with a plea to save the planet. She retold one of her favorite proverbs: “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they will never sit in. We need to start planning for our children and grandchildren.”
“We are a land of lush forests and blue oceans, but we keep cutting down the trees and polluting the waters,” the singer explained.
Offstage, Streisand has been campaigning to fight women’s heart disease.
She has donated $10 million to the Cedar-Sinai’s Women’s Heart Center, and has raised more than $10 million from Joan and Irwin Jacobs, Sumner Redstone, Haim and Cheryl Saban, Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Barry Diller and Diane Von Furstenberg, Ricki and Ralph Lauren and Ron Perelman for the Women’s Heart Center at Cedars-Sinai Hospital.
Former US president Bill Clinton, who has heart disease, attended a star-studded fundraiser at her Malibu Beach House in June. Israeli Lior Suchard, a self-professed “supernatural entertainer” who won a Uri Geller contest, performed. At that event, Cedars-Sinai announced that they were renaming the center in her honor.
Streisand explained why the fight against women’s heart disease means so much to her.
“Why am I here... because I can’t stand inequality,” she said. “Whether it is about civil rights, gay rights, or gender discrimination: This was long before I made Yentl, which is about a women’s struggle in a man’s world, or the war on women that is being talked about now.”
She first learned about the issue when a close male friend was being treated by Dr.
Noel Bairey Merz. The doctor was able to reverse his heart disease with open-heart surgery.
“I like to think that I am sort of well informed, but I was shocked to learn that heart disease kills more women than all cancers combined and that more women die annually from heart disease,” Streisand stressed. “Last year, in the United States alone, nearly 500,000 women died from it.”
Yet most of the research in heart disease is done on men and very little money is allocated to research specifically on women’s heart disease. Streisand said, “The only message that sends is that even in scientific research, women are still treated as second-class citizens. That is unacceptable.”