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By April Boyle (taken from The Portland Press Herald)

     Jim Bailey’s performance Sunday night marked the Ogunquit Playhouse’s second annual co production with AIDS Response-Seacoast, a non-profit community-based HIV/AIDS service organization.

     The benefit was a huge success.  People packed the playhouse for a chance to see the renowned female impersonator.  And, Bailey delivered the goods, wowing the audience with the totality of his transformation.

     Bailey appeared for the first set dressed in a flowing black gown and blonde wig.  The resemblance to Barbra Streisand was uncanny.  But, it wasn’t just his looks.  Bailey had every last detail of Streisand’s mannerisms, from the flipping of her dress to the unconscious wiping under her eye with her finger.  He also had her Jewish New Yorker accent and voice.

     A splendid seven-piece orchestral band opened the first act with a montage of song clips slated for the performance.  The 10-song set included such Streisand hits as “People,” “My Man” and “Before The Parade Passes By.”

     Bailey delivered the set with all the vocal flair of Streisand and only a slight audible lowering of range.  His vocal stamina was impressive, never slipping from character.

     He was an all around entertainer, serving as an actor, vocalist and comedian.  In between songs, Bailey chatted and joked.  The audience laughed as Bailey told fictitious stories in Streisand’s derailed train manner, with frequent asides.  The tales ended with hilarious, Jewish-geared punch lines.

     At other times, Bailey harmlessly poked fun at Streisand’s humble history as a bar performer.  One shtick amusingly featured Streisand revisiting her days as a heavily accented, gum chewing Bronx performer in 1961.  Bailey later stressed that her accent never really disappeared, mispronouncing words such as mannequin as “manneqwin.”

     Bailey returned after intermission for another 10-song set that included memorable renditions of “Second Hand Rose,” “As If We Never Said Goodbye,” “Moon River” and “Don’t Rain On My Parade.”  He was stunningly dressed in a white, sequined dress and jacket.

     The second set surprisingly surpassed the first.  Bailey no longer appeared to be playing Streisand, but rather had become her.  Streisand’s gestures were second nature.  His voice even gained strength, which was miraculous considering the unnatural range he ha to maintain throughout.  The last three songs of the set served as two encores.  Bailey returned to perform Neil Diamond’s “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” and then left the stage, returning to a standing ovation for “Happy Days Are Here Again.”  Bailey joked that there were really no surprises to his set since the playhouse had “accidentally” printed his complete program.  He then concluded the evening with a moving rendition of “If I Loved You.”

     Audiences will have the chance to catch Bailey again this Wednesday at the Merrill Auditorium where he’ll be appearing as Judy Garland.  Many at the playhouse were eagerly planning to attend.



Copyright ©2005 Jim Bailey. All rights reserved.
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