With Barbra Streisand’s vast musical and acting history across her career, Encore: Movie Partners Sing Broadway makes perfect sense as an album concept for her. It’s not even something unique for her; collaboration albums and theater standard albums are nothing new for her, and combining the concepts for one album sounds like a good idea on paper. In practice, however, there are a few major flaws that make Encore a less enjoyable package and detract from the concept as a whole.
There’s a wide range of accompanying vocalists on Encore, all actors Streisand has worked with in the past. What isn’t varied, however, is the style of the album. As is to be expected given the theatrical origins of the songs, it’s an unrelenting collection of over the top numbers with a Streisand touch applied to them, sometimes giving the song a more exuberant feel that aligns better with her voice while remaining true to the source material. This should make her sound better in conjunction with the songs, but in truth it ultimately leads to the album’s biggest issue.
Across the album, especially when it comes to the more romantic or emotionally charged songs like Any Moment Now or Loving You, the complete lack of chemistry or sincerity between her and her duet partners means the song lack any real pull. This is especially true on Any Moment Now, where Hugh Jackman eventually steals the show with his own vocal sections, but the small acting parts between the two actors falls completely flat. It’s less of an issue on certain cuts, with Pure Imagination, which features Seth MacFarlane in the role of Willy Wonka, being one of the few truly enjoyable moments on the album; again, more so due to MacFarlane than Streisand herself.
And given that the album is big on emotional cutaways from the productions the songs came from, chemistry is a necessary factor whose absence leaves a glaring hole in the album. It’s a collection of tracks partially tailored to help Streisand steal the show, but which ultimately works against her as the more interesting vocal partners end up stealing your attention away from her. Encore: Movie Partners Sing Broadway is an idea that makes sense for Barbra Streisand on paper, but one that ultimately feels sterile and, ironically enough, too theatrical for its own good.