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Essence of Streisand captured in song

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to Cat brown fur smoulder

The Way We Were

Director: Paul Spence

Cast: Cat Simoni

Venue: Rosebank Theatre

until: Saturday

Rating: ****

Take a generously proportioned nose, a blue-eyed squint, dollops of attitude, and a voice sweet as raw honey… and you have some idea of the larger-than-life personality of Barbra Streisand.

That personality is captured effortlessly by singer Cat Simoni (pictured), who after performing in London has returned to South Africa to enchant audiences with this celebration of the Streisand legend.

Gliding sinuously about the Rosebank Theatre’s minuscule stage, Simoni traces the life of a woman whose unconventional looks became a thing of ironic beauty.

She caresses notes out of a keyboard, dons fluffy headgear of dubious taste, drapes herself in wraps and coats of faux fur that would make any self-respecting fashionista cringe, and sings up a storm, complete with an authentic-sounding Brooklyn accent.

Simoni has neither the nose nor the blue eyes of the woman she impersonates, but her grasp of the singer’s indomitable nature – her zest for life, her self-belief and sheer determination to succeed in her chosen career – makes her portrayal totally credible.

Each song is placed within the context of Streisand’s turbulent life, from the snuffly rendition of a solo when she was seven years old and making her début with a violent cold, to a sleek performance of You Don’t Bring Me Flowers as a duet with Neil Diamond, and the eponymous The Way We Were, from the film of the same title in which she co-starred with Robert Redford.

Nostalgia plays a major part in this show devised by Paul Spence – not surprisingly, since Streisand had her heyday some 40 years ago – but Spence’s direction prevents it from degenerating into mawkishness. Nor is it dated: a song like Brel’s If You Go Away has timeless, eye-misting intensity, while People, from Funny Girl, recaptures the singer’s warmth and generosity of spirit decades after it was first popularised to become her signature song.

Whether or not you are a Streisand fan, this show is greatly entertaining as it offers dry, earthy humour and ear-pleasing songs delivered with polish.

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