|BarbraNews.com talks to... Steven Brinberg (aka Simply Barbra)|
So when and how did you begin impersonating Barbra?
I first realized I could sing like Barbra in high school. I recorded my voice as her singing THE MORE I SEE YOU, a standard she has yet to record. My dad found the tape and said "I found this Barbra Streisand recording but it has your name on it" and I said "That's me!" I started taking singing in college, and when I did my first one man show, I included impressions of several people, including Barbra. That's where THE PIONEER ALBUM but from my CD was born. I did my first SIMPLY BARBRA show in Nov. of 1993 and right after that she announced her return to concerts!
You don't lip synch, but you sing Live?
Other than the veteran performer Jim Bailey, I am the only other male Barbra (that I know of) who sings live. Hers is such a unique voice that it is very hard to do properly. I was inspired when in an interview Barbra was asked what she thought of all the men who do her and she said "I wish they'd do me better!" and I thought I am going to be the first one to do her justice and NOT cross my eyes and be mean...I wanted to be flattering to her because I am such a fan.
Is it possible for you to have a favorite song that you like to perform live?
My favorite song to do is PEOPLE...I hear it in my head the way she did it in the movie (strings and all) and it is so moving to me, especially the second half with the humming ("Hmm hmmm hmm hmm..da da da dee du dum")When I appeared in the FUNNY GIRL concert on Broadway last year, the actress who was assigned that song said she thought PEOPLE was a cheesy tune until she saw it in the context of the story.
Do you sing songs in which Barbra hasn't sung live before?
I sing many songs in the show that Barbra has not done live, as well as songs she has not done ever. Some recent ones include THE TROLLEY SONG, IF HE REALLY KNEW ME and IT'S TODAY. It's always fun to imagine how she would sing something. I'd been doing MOON RIVER the last year before I knew it was on THE MOVIE ALBUM and I did it like it is on JUST FOR THE RECORD, only adding a middle humming section and then repeating the first part, correcting "waiting for the bend" to "waiting round the bend." I can't wait to hear how close her new version is to mine!
What was it like to perform with Marvin Hamlisch!?
That must have been something! Performing with Marvin was one of the highlights of my career. He phoned me after hearing my CD and told me he was thinking of using me in TIMELESS on New Year's Eve. He wanted Barbra to say "You know sometimes I'm so busy, I wish there were two of me!" and then I'd appear. He asked me to send over a bunch of CDS for everyone involved. A few days passed and he called and said everyone loved it, but that the concert, only a few weeks away was already written and much of it involved Lauren Frost as young Barbra. It would have been overkill. He said he hoped to work with me in the future. As soon as the New Years shows were done, he called and asked me to do concerts with him in Pittsburgh and Washington DC with his symphonies. He would say, "You know I can't play this song without thinking of someone very special" then I'd be humming THE WAY WE WERE in the wings and he'd look around like "is that her?" it was so much fun. In one show we did PEOPLE with Barbra's 80 plus piece arrangement, and in both we did YOU DON'T BRING ME FLOWERS with Marvin at the piano. He asked me to do a third concert in Ohio, but sadly I had a previous booking and couldn't do it.
You performed one of your concerts in Australia at the same time that Barbra was performing Timeless. Did you get any feedback from Barbra about this?
I was in Australia while they were there, and Marvin got my pianist and I great seats up close (the concert in the rain in Sydney. It was wild. I did my show one night, saw her show the next night, did my show the next night, and people in the audience waved the flashlights they got at her show! I did a lot of TV while I was there and am told that she saw me on one of the shows! I hope it was the one where the lighting was so beautiful (The Bert Show) cause that's important to me, and to Barbra. The brief scene I have in the new movie CAMP (after the very end credits) is also lit beautifully. I think she'll be pleased at how I look as her.
You've also performed on the Rosie O'Donnell show, right? Did she share her memories with you?
The Rosie O'Donnell Show was a disappointment. I was supposed to sing/talk with Rosie and Meat Loaf ,another guest took up so much time (and upset Rosie) that all I had was a brief chat and even more brief time to sing HAPPY DAYS. Rosie smiled while I sang, but bolted when the show ended, and I never even met her! She rehearsed a segment that also was cut where they held up Barbra albums and she was to sing a bit of each one... quite a few of them stumped her, like BUTTERFLY, and she said "I don't know that one!" Later when Barbra did her show, the staff called ME to help come up with questions for Barbra! Rosie is now working on TABOO with my friend Charles Busch, who has been a guest star in my show, so maybe I will finally get to talk Barbra with Rosie.
Tell us about the celebrities who have came to see you perform?
Many celebrities have attended my shows over the years: Liza Minnelli, Alan Cumming, Michael Feinstein, Patricia Neal, Ruthie Henshall, Sian Phillips... they have all been wonderful to meet. I was on a radio show with Dame Diana Rigg who was also very nice. Roslyn Kind saw me in Los Angeles and I could hear her laughing in the audience... it's the same as Barbra's laugh! A number of Barbra's co-stars and colleagues have come, from Sondheim and Arthur Laurent's to Mimi Hines and Lainie Kazan, Barry Dennen, Blair Hammond(a FUNNY GIRL dancer), Paula Laurence (who subbed for Jean Stapleton) and Larry Fuller. Jane Hoffman, Barbra's mother in UP THE SANDBOX came several times. I went to dinner with her once... she loved working with Barbra, who was concerned about not hurting her when she put her face in the cake!
Do you hope to meet Barbra one day? What would you say to her?
Of course I would love to meet Barbra. My dream is that she'd see me perform and say "I love it... now when you sing that one song, hold your right hand up a little higher..." She once said she loved planning and writing her concerts... she just didn't want to do them! So maybe she could direct me in one...I'd tell her to keep making movies... because she's as great an actress as she is a singer. I actually just saw THE WAY WE WERE reissued in stereo at the Ziegfeld here in New York and she is so amazing in that film.
Didn't you attend One voice?
ONE VOICE....I had a friend in Los Angeles who knew someone who knew someone who could get tickets for the concert. There were only 500 seats and it wasn't easy. When he said yes, then I had to convince my parents to give me the money... a lot for a kid to spend! Even then, people were saying this might be her last concert. It was well worth it. We were served dinner on her tennis court. I saw Bette, Whoopi, Goldie,Walter Matthau (they must have made up from DOLLY) everyone seemed to be famous except my party. It was amazing to hear her sing live for the first time and think "This is not a record!" You could look in the windows of her houses, but there were portisans and her trailer set up as bathrooms. I used the latter, and saved the pink heart shape soap I found by the sink!
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