A segment in the hourlong HBO documentary "Barbra Streisand in 'Putting It Together': The Making of 'The Broadway Album' " shows Streisand rehearsing a track with pals Sydney Pollack and David Geffen. They play record executives who try to discourage her from making an album of show tunes. The overlong sequence establishes the show's theme: how brave Barbra is to make this record.
Streisand tells another friend, director William Friedkin, that her own label's executives warned her that the LP wouldn't sell. Friedkin, not the toughest interviewer, doesn't point out that it was Linda Ronstadt's two albums of romantic ballads that took the real risk in this area. Streisand is merely--and wisely--returning to her roots with this LP, which has sold like crazy.
The songs--by Sondheim, the Gershwins, Kern, et al.--are the saving grace of the show, although we get only a sampling of the material. Streisand's renditions are sometimes moving and often overblown. She has a voice that can leap tall buildings, but she seldom resists showing off even when the material demands delicacy.
Streisand has a driven personality to match--and we see ample evidence of it here. When she tells the conductor that a tempo was a mite slow, you know he'd better get it right next time.
This is a well-made, self-serving promo (whose next airing is Sunday) that will be treasured by the Streisand cult, but others may have trouble swallowing it.