Steven Brinberg recently performed Simply Barbra, his long-running Barbra Streisand show, to acclaim at the New Conservatory Theater in San Francisco and the Millford Theater in Pennsylvania. Before that, he triumphed in such far-flung places as London, Canada, and Australia. Now he's returning to New York for two shows at Don't Tell Mama with two very special guest stars in tow: Deven May (Bat Boy) on November 20 and Matt Bogart (Aida, The Civil War, Smokey Joe's Café, etc.) on November 26.
Steven and I have been palling around lately, seeing shows in and out of town. I thought TheaterMania readers might want to know where he's been and what he's got coming up.
THEATERMANIA: Your local fans must be very glad to have you performing in New York again.
SB: Thanks. The last time I did the show here was in April, and before that there was a break of about six months. I used to be here something like 40 weeks of the year.
TM: What are your plans after your shows at Mama's?
SB: Well, I'm at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut from December 12 through 16. Betty Buckley is there right now; I hope the place is still standing when I get there, after all that belting! Then I go to perform again at the Jermyn Street Theater in London, December 28-30. That one we're calling "The Just After Christmas Show." And I'll be at the Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia on January 4 and 5.
TM: One thing that keeps people coming back to Simply Barbra is that you're always updating the material. The section of the show where you mimic other celebrities is always a huge hit. What have you added recently?
SB: I'm doing "I'm Still Here" as performed by lots of different singers, including Betty Buckley, Sarah Vaughan, Fran Drescher, Katharine Hepburn, and Bea Arthur. I start by using some of the new Sondheim lyrics that Barbra used for the song but then I go back to the original version.
TM: You also reference Streisand's plan to produce a TV movie of Mame starring Cher, don't you?
SB: Yes. I used to do Cher singing "If He Walked Into My Life," but now I do her singing "It's Today."
TM: Do you have any kind of a takeoff on Streisand's new Christmas album?
SB: I'm doing "A Christmas Love Song" from that album, by the Bergmans and Johnny Mandel. And I'm probably going to do Barbra's famous version of "Jingle Bells." I'll introduce it by saying, "Well, I have a new Christmas album, but I'd like to sing something from the old one." I was going to sing "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve." We've cut that, but we may put it back for the London shows. I want to start it by saying: "Usually, when someone asks me this question, it comes with a contract!"
TM: Streisand's various projects are a constant source of inspiration for you. What do you expect her to do next?
SB: What do I expect her to do, or what do I want her to do?
SB: What I want her to do is make some movies. Any movies! I'd even settle for episodic television. She was photographed at the Emmys talking to Thomas Schlamme, who produces The West Wing, and all I could think of was: "Hey, that's a really prestigious show. Can't they write an episode for her?" I know she's talking about writing her memoirs. I think that would be fascinating if she had the guts to be even slightly hard on herself.
TM: One last question: What's the status of your new duets album from Jerome Records?
SB: I realize it's taking as long as one of Barbra's projects, but it's due out in the spring. We'll do a show to promote it. I sing duets with lots of great people including Kaye Ballard, Karen Mason, Mimi Hines, Heather Mac Rae, Hugh Panaro...and Betsy Joslyn. I think Betsy's cut should be of interest to theater fans because she hasn't recorded much lately; doesn't she sing, like, one line on the High Society album? But wait till you hear how fantastic she sounds. Oh...and my live, solo album on the JAY label is still available in finer record shops. Look for it!
[Steven Brinberg's shows at Don't Tell Mama are on Tuesday, November 20 and Monday, November 26 at 9:15pm. Phone 212-757-0788 for reservations.]