Performer to Honor ‘Funny Girl’ Anniversary

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Steven Brinberg’s voice is usually deeper than the one he employs on stage.

Whereas it’s usually “de, de, de,” as he sang in a deep octave recently on the phone, on stage it’s more of a “de, de, deee,” changing to create a semi falsetto.

That’s because on stage he’s not performing as Steven Brinberg. Rather, he’s Barbra Streisand.


The New York native — like the icon he portrays on stage — has performed Simply Barbra since the ’90s, or “forever,” he said with a laugh.

Steven Brinberg will perform Simply Barbra at the RRazz Room in New Hope on Sept. 1. | Photo provided

He sports a long-sleeved black evening gown similar to what Streisand wears when she does performances along with a wig of a sleek bob, fake nails to match Streisand’s talons and takes to the microphone to sing classic hits, from “Evergreen” to “People.”

“I always like to say I’ve played in more cities than Barbra has, actually, and sang her songs more than she has,” he said, as he’s toured the world over performing the show.

Though, he notes, Streisand has probably sang more songs from Funny Girl than he has, given the years she spent on Broadway performing the tunes eight times a week.

That musical will be the theme of his Sept. 1 performance at the RRazz Room in New Hope, as it falls around the 50th anniversary of the film adaptation, which premiered on Sept. 19, 1968.

“It really does show everything she can do within that movie,” Brinberg said of Funny Girl, for which Streisand won an Oscar.  

Funny Girl’s influence can still be felt in pop culture. He pointed to actress Lea Michele’s rendition of tunes from the show on Glee; the longtime Streisand enthusiast did a knockout version of “Don’t Rain on my Parade” in one episode.  

But, despite its success, it has never received a Broadway revival — perhaps, he surmised, because Streisand is so strongly associated with the role of Fanny. If another actress sounded too much like Streisand, the audience would just compare the two.

That’s his goal on stage, however.

“That’s why it’s fun to sing the songs from it,” he said, “because I’m sounding just like her on purpose. I want you to think about her when you watch me.”

The show came about when during a separate performance he started to do other voices and impressions, such as Julie Andrews, Cher and Streisand.

After commenting that he sounded just like her, someone asked him, “Why don’t you do a whole show as Barbra?”

He was hesitant as he didn’t think he could look like her. But he decided to give it a try to see what happened and it was such a hit, he’s been doing it ever since.

“It never gets tiring for me,” he said.

He changes the lineup with each performance, though he keeps most of the classics, and adds bits depending on what’s going on in Streisand’s life, whether it’s cloning her dogs or finishing her memoir that’s been years in the making. He’ll joke around with the audience and quip lines that sound like they’d come from Streisand herself.

At a show in Scotland, a fire alarm went off during the performance. The audience had to be ushered out of the theater, including Brinberg. As Streisand, he asked, “Isn’t there a VIP exit?”

He didn’t become a “huge, crazy fan” of Streisand until he watched Funny Lady for the first time in the ’70s. It was already several films into her career, he noted, and “from that moment on, I was totally hooked.”

He started collecting her many albums.

“Each week, I’d save up and buy another one,” he said. No easy feat, he noted, as “she’s done a lot.”

He could identify with her, too, because of their similar backgrounds as New York Jews, which lends a certain authenticity to the performance for Brinberg.

“I’m this nice Jewish boy playing this nice Jewish girl,” he joked.

“I know how she thinks and what she would say,” he added. “And … the Jewish audience is so important because music and theater is part of most of our lives.”

His goal is to give the audience a chance to “enjoy an intimate evening with Barbra as close as they could get without spending all that money,” he said, while also letting them see how much of a fan he is as well, as the show is truly a tribute.

Were Streisand to show up in the audience one day, “I’d either freeze or give the performance of my life, and that’s what I’d do.”

He knows she is aware of what he does. He’s toured with the late composer Marvin Hamlisch, who worked with Streisand as a pianist for Funny Girl. He’s performed for Streisand’s friends like Donna Karan, as well as other big names as Stephen Sondheim and Liza Minnelli.

“I know she knows what I do is very complimentary to her, it’s not cruel,” he said. “It pokes fun at her personality a little, but it’s a very loving portrait of her.” 

mstern@jewishexponent.com; 215-832-0740

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