If someone decides to revive “Funny Girl,” the Broadway musical that helped put Barbra Streisand on the map, they could do no better than to cast Shoshana Bean in the lead role. That’s because the singer, who also made her name on Broadway in “Hairspray” and in “Wicked,” proved that she is her idol’s worthy successor, Saturday during “Shoshana Bean: Get Happy, The Streisand Songbook” at the Cabaret at the Columbia Club in downtown Indianapolis.
It takes a performer with a lot of chutzpah to try and do justice to the Streisand songbook, but Bean confidently showed she was more than up to the task. Not only does she possess, like Streisand, some exceptional singing chops, a gift for song interpretation and a sharp sense of humor, but Bean also has a distinctive personality, emotional depth and charisma all her own.
Bean got her start in the off-Broadway revival of “Godspell,” followed by her Broadway debut in the original cast of “Hairspray.” She then auspiciously stepped into Idina Menzel’s shoes as Elphaba in “Wicked,” which she later reprised on the hit show’s national tour.
Accompanied by her music director, James Sampliner, Bean performed a program consisting of many of the Broadway, pop, jazz and adult contemporary songs made famous by superstar Streisand, who has enjoyed a career spanning over half a century.
Bean was dressed in a vintage short black dress with long lace sleeves. Combined with a hairdo similar to one that Streisand wore in the late ‘60s, she even looked like the icon did during that period. Possessing a powerful voice and uncanny range, she came extremely close to a dead-on vocal impression of Streisand, but nevertheless managed to make Barbra’s songs her very own. Also bringing her own Jewish sensibilities to bear during humorous banter with the audience, Bean’s comic sense closely resembled that of Streisand.
“On A Clear Day” was Bean’s opening song, which she sang as she entered the Crystal Terrace and walked through the full house on her way to the Cabaret stage. Next was “Down with Love,” followed by Streisand’s “The Minute Waltz,” notable for the vocal calisthenics required to sing it.
Prior to singing “You’ll Never Know,” Bean showed the audience a framed photo of her dog, Mimi, a Puggle who she said she missed deeply and whose picture she placed on the piano.
“Cry Me a River,” as sung by Bean with intensity and passion, displayed Bean’s powers of expressiveness, her ability to create almost a visceral response to her singing, and her gift for deeply connecting with her audience.
Act 1 ended with a medley of more of Streisand’s greatest hits, including “Evergreen,” “People,” “Before the Parade Passes By,” “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” “Papa, Can You Hear Me?” and “I’m The Greatest Star.”
Act 2 included “Lover, Come Back to Me,” featuring a fine piano solo by Sampliner (an IU Jacobs School of Music grad), as well as “A Good Man is Hard to Find” and “Some of These Days,” which she belted like Sophie Tucker, one of Streisand’s idols.
Bean was astonishing — and left no doubt that she has a rare talent for totally inhabiting a song — when she sang “My Man,” from “Funny Girl,” with an unbridled intensity that sent chills down the spine.
“Happy Days” was Bean’s choice to close a show that left one feeling deeply grateful for not only Streisand’s immense musical contributions, but also for the opportunity to witness a rising star who may someday shine as bright as the legend she emulates.
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