Combining Characters

Several years ago, two tribute artists put their collective heads together wondering “what if Barbra Streisand and Frank Sinatra were to perform together?”
Why couldn’t their obvious differences prove to be a natural fit? Different personalities, different approaches to songs, huge egos that matched their huge catalogues of individually recorded hits, creating an explosive chemistry?
Sharon Owens as Streisand and Sebastian Anzaldo as Sinatra have proven that had the duo performed together, it would have been one hell of a show.
The concert that never was, struck the right chord with audiences all across the country and the duo has been performing the show for more than 15 years.
This time they’re bringing the show, “Barbra & Frank — A Sensational Tribute to Sinatra and Streisand” to the Harrah’s Laughlin Fiesta Showroom for a two-week run, Thursday, Sept. 13-Monday, Sept. 24.
The crooners met many years ago when they competed separately on ABC’s “The Next Best Thing.” Their duet debut singing “Witchcraft,” as if the real Streisand and Sinatra were appearing together on a classic ’60s TV special was one of the shows most memorable moments.
That duet was the spark that set the wheels in motion for their current show. They started playing Vegas and achieved more success than they could have hoped.
After a few years they took their show on the road to venues all across the country.
In the show, each artist performs solo pieces and duets with songs like “Somewhere,” “Something Stupid,” and “New York New York.”
One of the show’s highlights is a delicate blending of two of their signature reflective songs—Sinatra crooning verses of “It Was A Very Good Year,” intertwined with Streisand’s memorable “The Way We Were.”
We talked with Owens about the show, the concept and more. Here’s her take…

Talk about your show at Harrah’s Laughlin. Is the premise still the same?
Owens: Well, this show will be with our pianist, Ned Mills, and goodness, we are in our 15th year. The concept is still the same, as if Barbra and Frank were to do a concert together—even though we’ve been doing one for 15 years (she laughs). And the skeleton of the show is still very similar, meaning you will hear a Barbra set, you will have a Frank set, but when we come together in the second half of the show, there’s never been one show that has been the same. We take requests, we have different ideas that we’ve had for many years. So even from night to night, there might be different songs. Oh gosh, we have so much material, it could change within the night, so that second half is always kind of a little on the improvisational side. It’s hard to even say what will happen.

Some shows are scripted, they don’t vary from the theme, so it’s good you have that spontaneity to keep the show fresh especially after 15 years.
Owens: Definitely. You’re right and I do believe that. I can’t speak for Sebastian because he’s not on the phone right now, but for me, it is what has allowed me to be able to stay in this show and keep doing this show because I have that freedom and also I like to crack him up. Being in Laughlin, there’s so many fun things we can talk about and when we’re going to be there for the two-week run, if a guest comes in at the end when we’re meeting and greeting, and they say, “oh, you didn’t do this Barbra song that I absolutely love and miss and wanted to hear.” Then the next night, if they come back or they tell me, I’ll do it. That’s why I love it.

Talk about a show highlight.
Owens: We always pay tribute to Mr. Old Blue Eyes, and there is a very touching moment where I like to give tribute to him. But the one thing I always love to laugh about is that we’re like spaghetti and matzo balls, I mean we’re two characters that are so different you know? She’s a perfectionist and he likes to wing it. I have to laugh, because I like to wing it. I don’t know if I’m slighting Streisand, but I’m kind of more like Sinatra because I like to wing it. We always laugh at the end about who’s going to close the show, because the egos obviously there. They kind of argue about who’s going to close the show, and I’ve always thought that was funny. So that’s kind of a highlight for me, is that figuring out, “what are we going to end with here?”

Because of your physical resemblance to your characters, do you find it limiting or limitless when it comes to shows?
Owens: I can’t say it’s a lifelong thing because I’ve been doing this for 17 years, but it’s been such a huge part of my adult career as a performer. My voice does sound so much like Streisand when I sing. It just does naturally, so I have completely embraced that interpreting Streisand is what I do very well and it’s kind of at an embracing point now. That’s where I am. It’s a deep thought. Because even as a writer or any kind of creative thing, you kind of learn what you do best, and I’ve finally come to that realization. It took me a long time to come to terms that I do somebody else better than Sharon (she laughs). Where am I? I’m here somewhere. It took me a long time to accept that, to get through that identity crisis. But I don’t think I’m Barbra when I’m not Barbra, I’m Sharon. Definitely when I’m performing I do someone else better (she laughs).

Do you have to wear a disguise when you go to the grocery store?
Owens: That’s why I’m laughing, because off stage, I really am Sharon very well. I don’t fall into character, or I’m not like any of those Elvises mowing their lawns with their sideburns. I don’t have any of those problems. When I get off stage, I definitely do me the best.
What is your biggest challenge these days?
Owens: One of my thoughts and challenges is keeping the music that I interpret or pay tribute to alive. Because Sinatra is from that “Rat Pack” era, I’m concerned even more for his music than Streisand’s because I still have those boomers — the Streisand people who remember her. They’re getting older like me, but we’re still around. With Sinatra’s music, I know it’s timeless, but I worry that people will forget it. And I know these artists remake these songs, and kids don’t even know where they came from originally. “Oh, Beyonce sang that song.” Yes, but it came from people before her. I’ve got the performance part down pat, I’ve been doing it for so long I literally could get ready in the time it takes for the overture, 8 minutes. I could do it, because I’ve had to. But the challenge, I feel, for me, is keeping the music alive, and not only trying to reach the older generation, and they love the memories — they just relish in the memories. But I would love to be able to keep it alive and have the younger generation at least appreciate the music.

The show is a “Legends in Concert” production this time, correct?
Owens: Yes it is. I say this with complete respect for Legends because they did give me, as a soloist, my start. “Legends in Concert” is very close to my heart because they gave me the chance to really learn my craft and during that time, that’s when the Barbra and Frank show did come to be. I just love that they’re using our show. I’m just excited to work the show under “Legends in Concert.”


BARBRA & FRANK

The Fiesta Showroom within Harrah’s

Thursday-Monday, Sept. 13-24 (8 p.m.)

See “Showtimes” for ticket info