I have never seen Barbra Streisand in concert. I have most of her albums on my ipod, and I own a good half of her movies, but I have never experienced Babs live. Though it remains a dream, if Steven Brinberg's Simply Barbra is as close as I get, I just may be okay. As the world's most acclaimed Barbra Streisand impersonator, Brinberg is so SIMPLY BARBRA that the star once sent him in her place when she couldn't attend a party. And tonight I could hear why.
I say hear because I spent most of the show with my eyes closed, listening to Brinberg's gorgeous voice wrap itself around some of the best loved songs of our time.
When I did have my eyes open, I got to experience the wonderful nuance of Brinberg's performance, the way he portrayed Streisand's slightly self-conscious but totally aware persona – a physical presence always second to the voice, but with one sweep of the hair so Streisand nonetheless.
I will admit I teared up during The Way We Were, and again during Evergreen (Bill Clinton's favourite, apparently!). These are songs that belong to Streisand, it's impossible not to consider the thousand times I've heard that voice deliver them. What Brinberg does so beautifully in the show is capture the essence of Streisand's phrasing and control - the vocals are subtler than the super-human soar of Streisand in full stride, but sound Streisand just the same.
The songs where I could really hear the diva's vocal style come through were those that I don't associate with Streisand. Tomorrow from ANNIE was poignant despite the gag (apparently I am not the only one who wanted to play that orphan!) and Sondheim's Send in the Clowns was so softly lovely that I might have cried again.
Despite my tears there was no shortage of laughs along the way. In a hint of just how much Brinberg can do, his rendition of Alfie included guest spots by Cher, Lena Horne, and a scene-stealing Eartha Kitt, whilst You Don't Bring Me Flowers introduced Neil Diamond in a superb duet - though of course Babs got the final notes!
Wonderfully supported by Matthew Frank on piano, Brinberg's SIMPLY BARBRA pays tribute to one of the world's greatest talents, putting Streisand in the (softly lit) spotlight and inviting the audience to celebrate her incredible career. She couldn't make it to Melbourne this time – but we're so lucky that she sent Steven Brinberg to the party instead.
Steven Brinberg in SIMPLY BARBRA presented by Luckiest Productions
Chapel off Chapel, Prahran
Thursday 28th - Saturday 30th June at 7.00pm. Plus a 3.00pm matinee on Saturday, 30th June.
Tickets: $40.00 ($35.00 conc).
Bookings (03) 8290-7000 or www.chapeloffchapel.com.au
Riverside Theatres, Parramatta
Friday 6th July at 7.30pm.
Tickets: $40.00 (Seniors $36.00; 30 & under $22).
Bookings (02) 8839-3399 or www.riversideparramatta.com.au