Monday, July 9, 2012

Carla DelVillaggio…Channeling Barbra Streisand

Carla as vintage 60s Barbra
On October 11th, a happening will take place in Brooklyn. Barbra Streisand comes home to do her first major concert there. I’m thrilled to be going. I probably am sitting in Staten Island but I don’t care! Just to be in Barbra’s presence is good enough for me. It has been fifty one years since Barbra’s now legendary run at the Bon Soir. A few years ago, she did an intimate cabaret show at the Village Vanguard which was another getting back to her roots experience. Can you imagine what it must have been like to experience her in an intimate setting at the start of her career? Well, now is your chance to find out. Well, sort of. On Wednesday night, July 11that the Laurie Beechman Theater, the next best thing will be appearing, Carla DelVillaggio is bringing her critically acclaimed tribute to New York for the first time. She will  be joined by a tribute led by one of my favorite accompanists and friends, Rich Siegel.
Last month, she did one night only at what used to be the Bon Soir, now the Pink Elephant. Everyone that was there was raving about this show. 
Carla as contemporary Streisamd
Carla is doing something that is rarely done in cabaret. On three consecutive Wednesdays, she will be showing three different sides of Barbra. On Wednesday night, July 11th, she will be presenting vintage Barbra Streisand…complete with that famous 60s hair style and classic sailor dress. This concert will show the Barbra that the world first got to know pre-Funny Girl as we saw her on television appearances and specials of the 60s. You will literally be transported back.  On the 18th, Carla will be presenting the contemporary Barbra as we now see her in concerts.  On the 25th, the ONLY night I’m able to attend, unfortunately, I’m getting a group together to celebrate Barbra Streisand on Broadway in which Carla as Barbra will sing all Broadway standards. I can’t wait!
On Saturday, Carla and I sat down to discuss all things Carla! Today, I celebrate Carla DelVillaggio!
Carla wants to state right off the bat that this is a tribute. Just as I did for Carol Channing for many years, Carla’s goal and mission is to honor Barbra. That’s what she strives for. This is not a cheap imitation.

with Jackie Hofman
I asked Carla who the most famous iconic person is that she has met and if that person lived up to their iconic status. There are a couple that readily come to mind.
 One was Luciano Pavarotti, the great tenor. Carla met him twice, once at Tower Records in NYC signing autographs. He was so impressive and sweet. He stayed there LONG past the time he was supposed to, and signed every single thing people gave to him. She finally got to him and gave him her RECORD (as in LPs) albums to sign. He was lovely. Stood up (he was very tall) and leaned over to give her a kiss. Of course she was she started to walk away, people were laughing and he called her back for ANOTHER kiss. 
He was a ladies’ man to be sure. It was thrilling and he was even bigger than life, than she imagined. Plus he impressed her that he stayed so very long signing autographs. Carla has met other opera singers as well and most have been really lovely generous people. Pavarotti stands out in her mind though.
Carla also recently met Jackie Hoffman who attended Carla’s “Bon Soir” show last month. Carla loved meeting her. She was very forthright and honest about her experience at Carla’s show. Anyone who knows Jackie knows that she says what’s on her mind. Luckily for Carla, Jackie loved the show. They have continued to stay in touch with each other via email and Carla is going to try and catch one of Jackie’s upcoming shows. Carla is not the kind of person to blow her own horn. It took heavy prodding on my part to get her to tell me what Jackie had to say. Jackie, with her mouth wide open said, “I haven’t seen a show like this in years!” Jackie was blown away and had nothing negative to say about the night.  Her goal is to make her show even more authentic and better and would have been open to anything Jackie could possibly add in terms of advice and criticism.
Carla realized that she wanted to pursue a career in entertainment when she was in high school. Going back to elementary school, she had appeared in school plays and musicals. But it wasn’t until her last year of high school that she desired to take this career path. It was at that time that she saw her first opera. She started taking voice lessons and thought that was a cool thing. When she started her under graduate work, she sang in an opera chorus. That clinched it for her. She not only enjoyed hearing the singers but also watching them act. That was like a big light bulb that went on. From then on, Carla was classically trained. She just loved being on stage.  She loves the idea of bringing something to an audience, the idea that for that moment and time, they can be transported somewhere else.  She feels it is a gift to be able to do that.
La Cenerentola, Baltimore Opera
Carla considers herself a very ethical person.  She chooses to surround herself with like minded people.  When she can, she recommends other people when jobs come up that she is unable to take.  Networking is important.
After divorcing, Carla moved from Baltimore to Florida. At that time, she really didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life. She had prior to that marriage pursued a career in opera. Being older now, she felt that that was not the route to take. Then she met her partner, Paul Brown. He loved to sing Karaoke! Carla had never sung karaoke in her life. It sort of intimidated her. However, one night she decided to go. The first thing she could think of to sing was a Streisand song. She knew Streisand’s songbook very well. People were coming up to her and telling her that she bared a resemblance to Streisand. This was happening over and over again. Paul, being a salesman, saw ka-ching! Due to him and his persistence, Carla is now doing this. Trying to emulate that voice, that persona,  that legend is something that she works very hard at. Her next stop was the Sunburst Convention down in Florida which is for celebrity impersonators and tribute artists. She got her “act” together and tried it in 2006 for the first time. The response was very positive. It lit a fire under Carla.
Carla considers herself old school, even when it comes to Broadway. She is a fan of Bob Fosse. She is not a dancer by any stretch of the imagination, according to Carla. 
However, his style is easily recognizable. She gets excited when she sees his style. It is cool and classy. That is what makes a star.
Carla lost her mother in 2004 so she never got a chance to see what Carla is doing now.  Her parents were way ahead of their time. At a time when certain subjects were not talked about a lot, they were very open minded. They were very inclusive. Carla’s mother taught her not to be judgmental.  Her parents lived together before they were married. That just wasn’t done at that time. Her mother taught her that it was ok to ask questions about religion or politics but to do it with kindness and an open mind.
George Burns, Carol, Walter Matthau
As I do with many of my blogs, I bring up the subject of Carol Channing receiving the 2012 Kennedy Center Honor (Please sign the petition below!). Carla, along with so many others, cannot believe that she doesn’t already have this and why it hasn’t happened yet. “She’s a legend.” When Carla thinks of Hello, Dolly!, she does tend to think of Barbra. Carla loves the unique way that Carol has about her. You know it when you hear it. Long overdue!
There are parts of Carla’s opera career that she is very proud of. When Carla sees someone responding positively to her music, that truly moves her. Whether someone is crying or when someone comes up to tell her that a particular song evoked a certain memory or touched them. Carla herself gets verklempt  as she talks about this.   
A woman who was in a wheelchair several years ago told Carla that she was a Holocaust survivor which actually blew Carla away to begin with. She was so sweet and she kept saying over and over again what this show meant to her, that it brought back memories for her. That stays with Carla. She is proud that she can touch people.
What would Carla tell her twenty-five year old self? Don’t get married so many times. She has been married three times…one time more than Barbra!
 The one change that Carla would like to see in the entertainment industry, most notably in the tribute artist industry, is more of an acceptance. When she embarked on a career doing a tribute to Barbra, some people will say, “Oh, that’s cute!”
There is a difference between the less polished acts and those that truly commit themselves to it. She has actually written an article that she is going to be presenting at the Sunburst Convention this year about how tribute artists are no different from any other actor or actress taking on a role. People should realize that it takes a great deal of preparation, practice, and dedication to this craft. Meryl Streep has played Margaret Thatcher and Julia Child. She is “impersonating” them. Carla says the only difference is the paycheck. Those that take it to the same level hope that they all get a better reputation. As like as the “bad Elvis’” are around, it is harder to be taken more seriously.
It has gotten harder and harder to go see live shows. Carla combats that by having various shows for her audiences to choose from. She thinks she is the only FEMALE Streisand tribute artist who performs as the vintage ‘60s Barbra. Carla’s ideal demographic remembers that. She certainly tries to market that to that demographic. She does personalize her shows a lot. When she is doing a Jewish Community Center or something of that nature, she tries and find out information about the people that are there. She includes them and makes the shows interactive. 
The audiences appreciate that as well.
Tales of Hoffman, Tri-City Opera
I asked if she thinks of as what she wears on stage as clothing or a costume. She thinks of it as a costume. She is not delusional. She knows where the differences lie between her and Barbra. She is doing her best to recreate an evening with Barbra, but she knows she is not Barbra. The wigs, the costumes, and all the other accoutrements come together to create the illusion. She has her costumes made as authentically as possible.  She still loves dressing up at this age.

Carla teaches voice at a local college in Orlando, Florida. I asked her what her vocal remedies are when she’s battling throat issues.  If it’s reflux, which she has trouble with, she is very careful with what she eats. No caffeine, for example. If she already has a sore throat, it’s as simple as nice warm tea with honey. It may not cure it, but it will certainly soothe it. She also makes sure she is completely warmed up before going out to sing. It all started with the voice for Carla. She warms up slowly doing all the things she tells her students to do. In the dressing room, she listens to Barbra’s music. She studies her moves in the mirror. She tries to get herself in that frame of mind. She never goes out there thinking she is going to be better than Barbra is. Her goal is to entertain everyone. Because she often self-produces her shows, she is often dealing with the off stage details as well. She would love to have the luxury of concentrating just on the show.
Carla admits that she didn’t have high expectations when she went into the tribute artistry world. She was not secure in what she was doing and felt as if she were not doing it well enough. She thought, “Maybe I will pick up a few gigs in a retirement community. That will be fun. ”  It has far exceeded her expectations. She is still shocked that she had the opportunity to sing recently at the “Bon Soir.”  What a magical night that was for her. Just to be in that space was enough!  Her priority is to do the work.     
This next question is from Myles Savage of The Platters: Have you shared any love today?  Yes, she has!
Her favorite memory so far is her night at the “Bon Soir.” She says that has topped everything else and it was an honor for her to be asked. I’m hoping that it is the first of MANY great memories. I hope that my readers will celebrate with Carla on Wednesday night, July 11th. And please join my party on July 25th as I keep that celebration going!

July 11 - 25 at Laurie Beechman Theatre
Award-winning Barbra Streisand tribute artist Carla DelVillaggio makes her New York City debut in STREISAND: THE GREATEST STAR, a trilogy shows offering encyclopedic theatrical recreations of Barbra Streisand’s career. Performances run Wednesdays, July 11-25, at 7:30 PM at the Laurie Beechman Theatre inside the West Bank Café (407 West 42 Street at 9th Avenue -- accessible from all subways/buses to Times Square/Port Authority). Tickets are $20. Doors open one hour before showtime. A full dinner menu and bar are available, with a $15 per person food/beverage minimum. Tickets may be purchased at or by calling 212-352-3101.

STREISAND: THE GREATEST STAR will present three different looks at the legendary Barbra Streisand. Each evening features exacting recreations of iconic Streisand fashions and looks as well as a jaw-dropping recreation of the legendary Streisand voice by tribute artist Carla DelVillaggio. The schedule of performances is as follows:

Wednesday, July 11 -- Barbra: The Way She Was
Spend an evening with the kooky 1960’s Barbra. The classic Barbra 60’s TV specials will come to life with timeless hits including Don’t Rain on My Parade and Starting Here, Starting Now – as well as songs that Barbra only recorded and performed in the 60’s, including A Sleepin’ Bee and Cry Me a River.

Wednesday, July 18 -- Streisand Songbird: Memories
Catch a more glamorous and mature Barbra as she reminisces about her entire career. The hits from the 1970’s and 1980’s classic albums (Stoney End, Superman, A Star is Born, and more) are included here, including Evergreen, The Way We Were, Songbird, and New York State of Mind.

Wednesday, July 25 -- Barbra, Back to Broadway
Tonight, in the heart of Times Square, Barbra takes over the Great White Way. It is a night of songs from Broadway shows that Barbra appeared in or recorded, from Some Enchanted Evening to Hello Dolly.

Carla DelVillaggio is one of the most successful Barbra Streisand tribute artists in the country, appearing regularly in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and around the country. Her many awards include the Agent’s Best Impressed Award (2008, 2010, 2011, Sunburst Convention, Orlando); Best Overall Celebrity Re-creation Award (2009, 2010, 2011, Sunburst); Rising Star Award (2009, The Reel Awards, Las Vegas); and the Best Showcase Gold Award (2011, Sunburst).

Thank you to Carla DelVillaggio AND Barbra Streisand for the gifts you have given to the world and continue to give!

With grateful XOXOXs ,

Check out my site celebrating my forthcoming book on Hello, Dolly!
I want this to be a definitive account of Hello, Dolly!  If any of you reading this have appeared in any production of Dolly, I'm interested in speaking with you!

Do you have any pics?
If you have anything to add or share, please contact me at


Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!    
My next blog will be...Calvin Remsberg...A director's perspective on Ruth Williamson's Hello, Dolly!

Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog!

Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!

Richard Skipper,                            

This Blog is dedicated to ALL THE DOLLYS and ANYONE who has EVER had a connection with ANY of them on ANY Level!


  1. loved it , as usual, Richard. Please give Carla my best. She is wonderful.

  2. Great Story, Superb Act, Class, Richard
    My best to You and Carla!

    Alan Kaye