Words: Simon Button; pictures: Provided
If Barbra Streisand is, as she boldly declared in Funny Girl, the greatest star (and for my money she still absolutely is) then Steven Brinberg is by far the greatest Streisand impersonator.
He is, as I noted last time he was in the UK, no mickey-taking drag queen miming (as is more common on the drag scene in the States than it is here) to Streisand’s recordings. Braver than a photographer daring to suggest the diva be snapped from the right when she has always insisted she looks better from the left, Brinberg dares to tackle - without the help of lip-syncing or Auto-Tune - the singular voice of the best singer of all time.
Again that’s my money talking and I’ve spent rather a lot of it witnessing her extraordinary vocal prowess at full pelt, though sadly never in as cosy a club as the Crazy Coqs where Steven is staging his new On a Clear Day You Can See Simply Barbra Forever show.
Quirkily marking the 51st anniversary of the ‘On a Clear Day You Can See Forever’ film a year late, he doesn’t rain on her parade with mean-spiritedness, he leads it with an affectionate tribute to the star in all her sometimes-barmy glory.
He sounds very Babs circa 1970, singing in the high register that Babs herself has since lost, and, with a blonde wig and very long nails, looks a lot like her too. He also does spot-on impressions of Judy Garland, Katherine Hepburn, and even Gillian Anderson as Margaret Thatcher.
Brinberg’s Barbra journey began when he started performing at New York’s legendary Don’t Tell Mama venue in the early 90s, mainly as himself but with the odd Streisand impression thrown in. He then developed a full Babs show and has been honing it ever since, and he has now reached a level where his Streisand is as well-honed as the perfectionist diva he pays tribute to.
Close your eyes when he sings ‘The Way We Were’ and you’d swear you were listening to the young singer herself. And the banter (about the notorious tightwad ebaying her old costumes or her dogs suffering from private jetlag) is as hilarious as it is very her.
Steven’s show is part of the Americans in London season at Crazy Coqs, which will also see Lorna Luft (aka Judy Garland’s other very talented daughter), Tony award winner Lillias White, pianist, and singer Billy Stritch, cabaret stars Anne Steele and Robbie Rozelle, and Broadway veteran Jason Kravits all taking to the stage before it wraps at the end of May.
The chances of seeing the real Streisand in such a small space are nil, but Brinberg is the next best thing.
On a Clear Day You Can See Simply Barbra Forever is at the Crazy Coqs until 8 April. The Americans in London season runs until May 28th. For more details visit brasseriezedel.com and for great deals on tickets and shows click here.