After the conversation in the comment section of my previous post about La La Land, I’ve been thinking more about actors stepping into a singing role. As proven by La La Land, not everyone can do it convincingly. Apparently this also applies to Emma Watson in the forthcoming Beauty and the Beast, in the opinion of the writer in this review shared by Servetus. Some singers make the transition to acting quite well, though, perhaps because they are able to imbue songs with emotion and so the experience is transferable. Justin Timberlake, for example, did an excellent job in The Social Network.
One of my favourite singers who is also a great actor is Barbra Streisand. Her talent and skill have lead her to win awards for movies, stage, TV and records. One of her movies I really love is On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, alongside a very young Jack Nicholson. Streisand also is not afraid to get involved in causes she believes in, as demonstrated in her reworking of Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns” in a Trump send-up at the Clinton fundraiser she threw back in September.
Aside from her acting and singing, Streisand is also an accomplished director (Yentl, The Prince of Tides, The Mirror Has Two Faces), and she put all of these talents to good use in putting together her most recent album. Encore: Movie Partners Sing Broadway, was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album. Streisand’s voice is still amazing and she certainly knows how to put a song over to an audience. But, perhaps more importantly for this album, she knows how to cast and direct an actor to get the best possible vocal performance of a Broadway song. “Being an actress,” she says, “I like to sing songs that give me something to act…This is a way for me to use actors who act and sing, with Broadway material.”
Some of the actors she selected are obvious choices. Hugh Jackman, for example, won a Tony award for his performance as Peter Allen (“I Go to Rio”) in The Boy from Oz. But even Jackman was blown away by the idea that Barbra Streisand wanted to sing with him, and he tells the story of getting the email about it and his wife screaming when he showed her the message on his phone. He was nervous when he started recording “Any Moment Now,” but he became more comfortable as they worked. “This voice I’m hearing is not someone who’s worried about the notes or how long I hold this or intonation. She’s worried about being truthful… and that’s inspiring.”
Other singing partners are less obvious, such as comedian Melissa McCarthy, but Streisand matches the actors with songs that play to their strengths and puts them at ease so they can give their best possible performance. With McCarthy, she performs “Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better)”, using a light comedic style which both of them can really do well. “She’s never been in a recording studio before. This was all, you know, new to her.” And McCarthy said, “I absolutely loved having her direct me and produce me…It feels fun, and yet you know that what she’s saying, you’re in good hands.”
This album is really worth a listen, and the videos on Streisand’s VEVO channel shed light on the creative process and share some interesting and cute stories. Other performers on the album include Chris Pine, Ann Hathaway, Alec Baldwin, and Antonio Banderas.