VIRTUAL BARBRA BELTS IT OUT
Steven Brinberg is so convincing as Streisand that autograph seekers get mixed up
Fans of songstress Barbra Streisand will enjoy Steven Brinberg as he takes the stage at the Living Room to "perform and sing Barbra" live, for the first time in Bangkok.
New Yorker Brinberg has been performing as Streisand for more than a decade and has appeared across the US in symphony concerts as well in Australia, Canada and Europe. He was even hired by Streisand's management to perform at fashion designer Donna Karan's birthday party.
"Donna Karan is Barbra's best friend, and she couldn't attend the party, so they sent me to fill in," the faux Barbra told us in an interview just before the debut performance on Tuesday.
"Barbra actually directed my performance over the phone through the director of her shows, who I know very well. Probably she liked it that I'm not mean. You know, some people, when they do her, they cross their eyes and act very mean and horrible. I do it in the way she actually is, and it's flattering."
From the sound of a guy dressed up to perform some numbers by a very glamorous diva, one might think "Simply Barbra" is a drag show. But it's not.
Apart from the part that Brinberg has to look right, he sings right, too. There is absolutely no lip-syncing and no instrumental accompaniment. His normally deep speaking voice turns into a soothing falsetto when he steps onstage and belts out hits like "Don't Rain on My Parade", "Evergreen" from "A Star is Born", "The Way He Makes Me Feel" from "Yentl", and "Memories" from "The Way We Were".
"To sing like her is a challenge, and that's what makes it fun. There are a million people that just lip sync to Barbra, but that's not what I do. It's fun to be able to sound like someone so famous, and so identifiable. Since I first started this show I've performed in more places than she has!"
With extensive background in acting, singing, Broadway and cabaret, Brinberg did several impersonating acts, playing Cher and Julie Andrews. But it was Barbra Streisand that gave him the kick to develop it into a full show.
"I'm a fan. I go through all the material and I know it all. Also, I had to learn her mannerisms and the way she talks. Whatever happened to her was reflected in the show. If she made a new movie, I would be talking about the movie in the show. Lately I've been talking a lot about the presidential election because, as you know, Barbra is very political. Her career seems to have sped up during the past few years, which is good for me because I have more things to talk about when I'm onstage.
"Instinctively know how she would react. It's theatre and I'm playing a character, and I never break from character when I'm onstage, but the minute I walk offstage, she's gone. And she's not there until the lights go on and I start singing again.
"It's funny sometimes when I sign autographs and meet people afterwards and they start talking to me as if I was her, like, 'Oh, Barbra, it was so nice to meet you.' Sometimes men can go too far when they dress up like a woman. I try to stay as tasteful as she is, but I still have a little bit of satire and the humour parts."
Brinberg will also perform with Richard Shelton as Frank Sinatra in "Simply Barbra & Frank" from November 29 until December 2 at the same venue.
NOT A DRAG
"Simply Barbra" is at the Living Room at the Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit through Sunday and again from next Thursday to Sunday. The shows at 8.30pm.
Tickets are Bt1,700 with one drink. The show with dinner is Bt3,300.
Call (02) 649 8353.