Steven Brinberg: Simply Barbra

| June 30, 2015

Steven Brinberg

Simply Barbra

Feinstein’s at the Nikko, San Francisco, CA, June 28, 2015

Reviewed by Steve Murray for Cabaret Scenes

Photo: Devon Cass

Photo: Devon Cass

Steven Brinberg couldn’t have taken a more arduous task when developing Simply Barbra, his brilliant and humorous homage to Streisand. It’s a testament to his creative talents that he’s able to tackle an entire show and persona of one of the greatest divas of our time. Brinberg, who’s appeared in more countries than Barbra, has his muse down pat: from the eye and hand gestures to the remarkable Streisand sound. Added to his creation is a very funny self-aggrandizing humor that elevates this show to something quite special.

Brinberg’s Barbra talks about recalling every known copy of the Yentl DVD because she notices a flaw in one of her irises on the cover art, then re-issuing it with 57 hours of commentary. On a planned Broadway paring in A Little Night Music with Jennifer Aniston, he says it didn’t work because Jennifer refused to play her 75-year-old wheelchair-bound mother! Then there’s the hope for her 24/7 ABS TV, All Barbra Streisand all the time. It’s a not so subtle ribbing of the diva’s propensity for perfection and her super-sized ego.

But, above all, the voice is stunning. A couple of songs included in Funny Lady prove the point, sung as straight dramatic readings with little comic embellishment: “Am I Blue?” (Harry Akst/Grant Clarke) and “If I Love Again” (Ben Oakland/Jerry Murray) were everything Streisand fans are used to: soft, delicate phrasing and sincere emotional deliveries. “The Way He Makes Me Feel” (Yentl) with lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman and music by Michel Legrand, sets an incredibly high bar for every impressionist who hopes to aspire to greatness.

Brinberg breaks character after a two-song mini-set by Musical Director John Randall, returning as himself to perform his wonderful impressions medley: Christmas songs by famous and not-so-famous stars including Eartha Kitt, Lena Horne, Carol Channing, Ethel Merman, Cher, Bernadette Peters and Billie Holiday. All nearly spot on vocally. It’s the non-singers who steal this portion of the show: Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn and Dame Maggie Smith all struggle through Christmas carols. Two more stunning numbers added to Brinberg’s mystique: a wonderful rendition of Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns” and a tender “Evergreen” (Streisand with lyrics by Paul Williams).

The act is called Simply Barbra, but there is nothing simple, modest or unassuming about it. Brinberg’s craftsmanship is complex, challenging and always rewarding.

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Category: Cabaret Reviews, Regional, San Francisco, San Francisco Cabaret Reviews

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