The Way We Were … Well, He Still Is

Barbra Streisand is Steven Brinberg's bread and … buttah.

You don't need the Coffee Lady to know that people who like people are lucky; but people who adore people like Brinberg adores Streisand, well, they're … fabulous!

A great turn — turn around and just listen; is it him or "Memories"? — is what Brinberg does as "Simply Barbra," his rein on the parade that is all things Streisand, which he is bringing to the Gershman Y's bubbly "Barbrapalooza" box office draw, beginning with the July 10 screening of "Funny Girl" at 7 p.m.

Funny guy this New Yorker Brinberg, who not only looks and sounds the part but divines the diva-essence that is Babs. But isn't his "Simply Barbra," to be performed as a one-man shoe-in for the singer on July 15 at the Arts Bank, on South Broad Street, deceptive?

Is there really anything simple about the elaborate singing queen that is Streisand? Just look at that elegant if elaborate outfit he wears; that voice, that look, those nails.

Nail the singer/actress/entrepreneur/Nu Yorker he does on stage. And has for some time.

The way we were, or at least the way he was, practicing his first impressions at grade school, teaching his teachers a thing or two about vocal wizardry — and what it means to be second to none at mimicry.

But it wasn't until college — and time spent studying at the New School — that the news hit him: Singing as Barbra could be an evergreen career.

It was then that he found his own voice –and hers, too. Hello, Dolly? Hello, Gawgeous!

Is That Really Me?
While he channels her in clubs and in concerts, Brinberg has plugged into her very id. "Even when I listen to the sounds coming out of me, it freaks me out," says the diva's doppelganger.

Obviously a big fan — "I can do her at different times in her life" — does she return the favor? Party favor, maybe: They've never actually met, but "about a year-and-a-half ago, [designer] Donna Karan, a good friend of hers, was having a birthday party and Barbra couldn't make it, so she sent me."

At most gigs, Brinberg is savvy enough to know what to do, but when you're sent to do a command performance at Streisand's behest, you know she'll command the attention — even when she's not there.

"In a way, by telling me what to do and when, she directed my performance," he recalls.

He has other direct links, performing with Marvin Hamlisch, the haimisch composer extraordinaire who's conducted for Streisand's numerous final farewell concerts.

I don't know why you say good-bye, I say hello:"Seeing him on stage when I come out … now that's damn spookie."

Fans are often spooked by the similarities and contrasts of B.S. and S.B. — that's one of them: "Our initials are reversed," he says of his fellow April birthday celebrant.

Then there's that similar "sense of Jewish humor; it's like she's a relative."

His delivery is so good, transmission so sound, it's like he's working for AAMCO. James Brolin, step aside? "People ask what's their secret," he says of the longtime married couple. "They're old" and when people marry older, it can be longer-lasting, he avows.

Brinberg doesn't have to long for a long-lasting career; he already has one — although he is adept at other voices. Indeed, one creative friend asked him to write a show about Shirley MacLaine — yes, he can do her voice, too — and he's considering it. "I would call it: 'Shirley MacLaine: 100,000 Years of Entertainment.' "

There may be other opportunities before that. If they ever do the movie of Streisand's life and times, would it be time for him to have his moment in the movie spotlight? (Although he's already appeared in a number of films.)

The mirror does have two faces after all: He's not interested in the title role, just the tile credits. "They could have someone else play her; I'd like to do the soundtrack." 



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