An Evening With the Fake Barbra Streisand
Babs impersonator Carla DelVillaggio puts on a show in NYC’s theater district
It’s uncanny just how much Carla DelVillaggio looks like Barbra Streisand. On Saturday night at the West Bank Cafe, the spotlight shone on DelVillaggio as the campy, but charming recorded orchestra played and she began to sing. “Don’t tell me not to live, just sit and putter. Life’s candy and the sun’s a ball of butter …” It felt like I’d wandered into an alternate universe in which Babs had lost a lot of money and was doing gigs at classy local spots in Manhattan’s Theater District to keep up with her bills, and perhaps her dwindling fan base. They look that similar.
DelVillaggio is a Streisand impersonator. She stayed in character for the entire show; she moved throughout the crowd, singing to men while caressing their shoulders. While DelVillaggio can certainly sing, she doesn’t have Streisand’s chops. The voice was off, like Babs had a cold. But it didn’t really matter; the crowd loved her just the same. Claps and cheers proliferated as she sang the hits.
The show was organized by decade. After the 1960s, DelVillaggio asked a very young man in the crowd to name her 1978 duet with Neil Diamond, but he got it wrong. “When you go home, go to the YouTube, as they say,” she said with some diva-esque ‘tude. He apologized and explained that he was really more of an “early Streisand” fan. Touché, Daniel.
After she revealed the answer—“You Don’t Bring Me Flowers”—she requested an audience member to sing Diamond’s part alongside her on stage. The crowd was silent; it seemed there were no takers. But she pressed on. Then, recently shamed Daniel raised his hand. He wanted to “redeem himself.” He joined DelVillaggio under the bright lights. His jean cutoffs clashed with her fake diamonds, but their voices meshed seamlessly. They sang the sad song, while his excited parents videotaped from their front row table.
The evening went on with more songs and projected slideshows of famous Streisand moments. Pictures from Funny Girl and Yentl, a picture of DelVillaggio with a Robert Redford impersonator posing in a The Way We Were embrace. The crowd sang along to “Memory” and “Down With Love.” They drank wine and laughed with their company. She might not be Streisand, but DelVillaggio comes closer than us commoners ever will.
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