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Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra Pops Conductor Marvin Hamlisch has known Barbra Streisand since his days as rehearsal pianist for the Broadway smash hit "Funny Girl" in the early '60s. Now Streisand has likely retired from the concert life, but Hamlisch, who knows a good song when he hears it, has taken the best of her songbook and turned it into a pops concert.

Hamlisch has plenty of experience leading orchestras with La Streisand's music. He was the musical director and arranger of her 1994 concert tour and the millennium concert tour that opened in Las Vegas on New Year's Eve 1999.

Hamlisch also co-wrote "The Way We Were" for the romantic film of the same name that paired Streisand with Robert Redford. And he worked with her on the music for the 1996 film "The Mirror Has Two Faces."

Marvin Hamlisch has conducted "The Barbra Streisand Songbook" just twice before -- recently in Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. -- and while Kleinhans Music Hall is next for the evening filled with Streisand's best tunes, Hamlisch said in a phone interview Wednesday that "I'm not expecting to do it much more."

Julie Budd is the singer he chose to perform the Streisand classics, though there are other performers, "including two children," whose role he wouldn't elaborate on.

The concert takes place at 8 p.m. today and Saturday. Tickets are $25 to $64. For information, call 885-5000.

With some 60 albums to Streisand's credit, how did you choose the songs?

It wasn't easy. There are so many good ones that the audience could be there for five days in a row. Since I have a strong connection to "Funny Girl," we'll be performing some of those ("Don't Rain on My Parade" is one). There's no way I could not. "Yentl," of course, and others that most people will know or like. Invariably, though, someone will tell you after the concert that you missed their favorite.

(While Hamlisch admits that "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" is on the concert list, anything from the Bee Gees period is decidedly not.)

Did you work with Streisand when putting this pops concert together?

I didn't talk to her. There really wasn't a need since we're not mimicking her. But her ability to pick beautiful songs to perform is one of her chief assets.

What's your favorite Streisand song?

When she did songs by Michel Legrand; they sit on her voice like a glove. I also loved the opening of "The Broadway Album," "Putting it Together."

Tell us about Julie Budd. How tough is it for her to sing the songs of one of the most famous performers of our time?

In a way it's rough. She's always been compared to Barbra, and they are very much alike. But Julie does it her way. And later in the concert, we let Julie be Julie and she sings her own songs.

Any plans to work with Streisand in the future?

No, not really. She's said she's retiring from performing. But, if she called. . . .

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