By Bobbie Katz
Sometimes in life, when it comes to achieving one’s destiny, fate steps in and begins leading one around by the nose.
Sharon Owens as Barbra Streisand
In Sharon Owens’ case, it led her to a career performing as legendary singer Barbra Streisand and, ultimately, to experiencing the sweet smell of success.
Currently, Owens is appearing in the holiday edition of “Legends in Concert” at the Flamingo as the famed diva through the end of January. Having recently closed a near seven-year run at the Riviera in “Barbra and Frank,” with Frank Sinatra tribute artist Sebastian Anzaldo, she is back in the show she originally cut her teeth on in Atlantic City back in 2002.
“I’m originally from St. Petersburg/Tampa Bay, Florida, but I always knew that I wanted to be an actress and a singer, relates Owens, who, to her knowledge, is the first-ever Streisand impersonator in “Legends in Concert” in 30 years. “I got my degree and a Masters in teaching and then moved to California, right next to Orange County, and started teaching music and theater and auditioning and doing cabaret theater. I was supposed to take over a spot in an Orange County cabaret dinner theater called Tibbies and I watched the girl I was supposed to replace sing ‘He Touched Me.’ I knew that there was no way that I could sing the song seriously because I’d be laughing through the whole thing so I asked the producer if I could spoof Streisand singing it. He told me that he’d give me one chance and then it was going back to the straight way. I went out and got a wig and exaggerated Barbra’s eye movements and ended up bringing the house down.
“Thanks to the advice of one of the boy dancers who was a drag queen on the side and told me that there was a call for what I had done, I began investigating and getting job offers to do Barbra, “ she continues. “I then began listening to her New York accent, working on her look and costumes, and putting my heart and soul into it. My career took off in 2002 and in the summer of 2003, I won my episode of the TV show Performing As against Frank Sinatra impersonator Brian Duprey.”
Although the two had never met before they competed on that TV show, it was suggested by an agent that Owens and Duprey would be great working together as a Streisand/Sinatra team. But Duprey had contracts pending so the agent went looking for another Sinatra tribute artist that Owens could team up with and found Sebastian Anzaldo. The two still tour together and recently returned from such places as Holland and Australia. Owens also has a solo show and is charted for symphony, having worked with five or six symphonies as Streisand.
As for the difficulty of getting down the voice of the iconic singer, which virtually no one who has impersonated her has ever achieved, Owens admits that she feels she hasn’t accomplished that even though people have been comparing her vocals to Streisand’s since she was 18 years old.
“There are little nuances,” she expresses modestly. ”There are a few things that I’ve mastered. I can do Barbra’s Brooklyn accent and there are certain notes, such as b flat, d, and f, that I can sing to perfection like she can. But I have a higher range; I don’t have her low chest belt. I have her upper and low, low ranges but I can’t emulate her middle range. With all my vocal training, I still can’t match her unique sound – I don’t think anyone can. She has a very unique chest voice and there are certain things I can copy very well with my vocal ability. But people hear with their eyes. Barbra’s look is really strong for some reason. People are enthralled with her look, her character, her mannerisms, walk, hair touching, and her facial expressions
“It’s taken a lot of practice,” she adds. “In the beginning, I studied her like a movie star would study a character to do a full-length movie. I poured myself into it. I look at her like an acting job that I’ve been doing for a really long time. I like to draw on her quirky Funny Girl persona, the New Yorker, without putting her in a bad light. I do have to do a little exaggeration.”
Costume-wise, Owens emulates Streisand’s wardrobe as close as she can. She explains that one of her students created some exact replicas of gowns from Streisand’s 1994-95 comeback and a drag queen created a white gown for her, all of which were so well made that she still wears them. She also has created her own looks that resemble Streisand’s very closely.
Owens admits that there is an occasional downside to what she does, which is that Streisand is a love-her or hate -her controversial character. She says that she has done corporate engagements where someone won’t take a picture with her, proclaiming that he or she doesn’t like the singer.
“I tell them that I am just playing a part,” Owens says. “But I can’t help but feel Barbra’s pain when someone does that to me. I also feel bad for that person -- respect Barbra for her talent if not her politics.”
Still, Owens wants to keep doing what she’s doing in emulating the great chanteuse. Why?
“I’m one of the very few that can,” she responds.
Her answer is right on the nose.
This article appears by courtesy of Vegas Insider Daily.com.