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June 14, 2017:

Simply Barbra reviewed by Rob Stevens


There was a time in the late 1970s/early 1980s when there always seemed to be a female impressionist on a local cabaret stage. It was the heyday of Charles Pierce, Craig Russell, Kenny Sacha and Jim Bailey and I saw and reviewed them all, many times over. Steven Brinberg began doing his Simply Barbra show nearly 25 years ago and this past June 13 was the first time I’ve ever caught the show. It was a delight from start to finish. From the joyous opening number “Hurry! It’s Lovely Up Here” to the obligatory finale of “People,” Brinberg marvelously channeled the superstar pop/movie diva/icon that Barbra Streisand was/is/will always be. In the comfy confines of Rockwell Table & Stage, it truly was like seeing a Streisand performance in her early days in those intimate NYC cabaret rooms in the early 1960s, not those giant arenas she has been doing her farewell tours in for the past two decades. Most of the hits you wanted to hear—“The Way We Were,” “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” “The Way He Makes Me Feel” and “Evergreen” were all sung. A particular highlight was the beautiful, touching rendition of Stephen Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns.” The rarely heard “Wait ‘Til We’re 65,” which the star recorded for the film On A Clear Day You Can See Forever but which didn’t make the film’s final cut, was a fun duet with the show’s masterful accompanist John Randall. There was also a great rendering of the classic duet of “Happy Days Are Here Again” and “Get Happy” which Streisand performed with the legendary Judy Garland. Here Brinberg was joined by Natalie Lander who also delivered a powerful “They Just Keep Moving the Line” from TV’s Bombshell. Between songs Brinberg let loose with some comic zingers on the star’s well know foibles. Brinberg proved he wasn’t just a one-trick pony when he did a series of impressions of stars doing Christmas albums. Everyone from Eartha Kitt, Carol Channing, Cher and Ethel Merman got to warble a tune. The highlights were Bea Arthur’s “Silver Bells” and the very scary “Frosty the Snowman” by Bette Davis. For an encore, Barbra did a duet with Anthony Newley on “Who Can I Turn To” that was seamlessly done. Brava Diva! Brava Barbra! Brava Brinberg!



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