While still an impressive recording, Back to Broadway is less impressive than its predecessor, The Broadway Album, for a number of reasons. The first is material. Barbra Streisand seems to be attracted to certain musicals, and here she chooses more songs from shows like West Side Story and Guys and Dolls that she didn't pick the last time around. Still attracted more to current composers than earlier ones, Streisand picks five songs by Stephen Sondheim (who has once again obligingly rewritten lyrics to suit her) and three by Andrew Lloyd Webber. The Sondheim material is worthy; the Lloyd Webber is not. (Though the intensity with which she sings "With One Look" from Sunset Boulevard suggests an eerie identification with the show's demented silent movie queen Norma Desmond.) Further, Streisand has done duets on two selections with people better identified with the material -- Michael Crawford, the original Phantom in Phantom of the Opera, on his signature song, "The Music of the Night," and Johnny Mathis, who has sung a medley of West Side Story songs in his shows for years, on a medley of "I Have a Love/One Hand, One Heart" from that show. Finally, the arrangements and production lean more toward contemporary pop and light jazz in many instances, the influence of commercial producers and arrangers like David Foster. All of which means that Back to Broadway is somewhat uneven. When Streisand takes on songs as well suited to her as "Everybody Says Don't" (from Sondheim's Anyone Can Whistle) and "Children Will Listen" (from his Into the Woods), she nears her work on The Broadway Album. Elsewhere, she is merely a phenomenal singer working against material or arrangements that aren't quite appropriate to her.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
feat: Michael Crawford