Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I'm The "Greatest" Star?

I very excitedly went to see Funny Girl Saturday night in Asbury Park starring Steve Brinberg. I LOVE STEVE BRINBERG! Presented by Revision Theatre at The Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park. The following is from Peter Filichia's column and the letter the subscribers got from The Revision Theatre. I debated as to whether or not I would post it in my blog today. I chose to place it here because I love this theatre and what they are trying to accomplish in Asbury Park (Not an easy task in today's tough economy!). But they have proved themselves time and time again.

Last summer, I had the pleasure of playing Carol Channing as Dolly Levi in a fully staged production of HELLO, DOLLY along with Charles Karel as Horace Vandergelder (who was in the original production with Carol Channing!) This was the kick-off for the theatre and their first big introduction to Asbury Park! What a great honor to be part of this new journey for them. Steven Bishop Seeley, Thomas Morressey, and David Leidholdt who founded Revision Theatre are three men to watch in the theatre. I was so excited to have this opportunity that I showed up at the first rehearsal completely off book! I wanted to honor the original vision of Michael Stewart, Jerry Herman, Gower Champion, and Carol Channing without any editorial nudges. Even though it was being presented as a "concert version" of the show, my expectations were higher. Halfway through the first rehearsal, Jim Weitzer (Cornelius Hackl) and Chris Gunn/pictured here (Barnaby Tucker) said that I had set the bar very high. They chose also to be off book and before you knew it, the entire company was off-book. From my first rehearsal with John Fischer, the musical director (as he was with FUNNY GIRL), it was an INCREDIBLE experience. Connor Gallagher, our choreographer (he directed/choreographed Funny Girl), and Thomas Morressey (director), and the entire company strived to make this an exciting night at the theatre. The three (who's counting) standing ovations attested to that.

I know how much time the "Funny Girl" company had to put this show together. I don't blame the creative team. I blame Steve Brinberg. I love him but why didn't he know the script? Especially at these prices! Our top ticket price was $50.00 on Dolly. This was $100.00.

I feel that Steve let the company down, his audience, and more importantly himself. I hope he realizes this. The apology came from the wrong people.

Does It Take More Explanation Than This?
Peter Filichia,

I know that today I was supposed to tell you all about my London trip, but something came up.

Funny Girl at the ReVision Theatre of Asbury Park, New Jersey.

Not a full production, but a concert version, starring Steven Brinberg. He’s spent most of the last 15 years imitating Barbra Streisand in concert, here, there, and around the world -- from London to Australia to Hong Kong. Indeed, when Streisand herself was asked to perform at Donna Karan’s birthday party, she asked Brinberg (through her people, natch) to go in her stead.
So the idea sounded good, especially when also promised was a 14-piece orchestra, which is larger than we get at some Broadway shows. Better still, Lainie Kazan, who was Streisand’s original understudy, would be on hand to introduce the show and sing “The Music That Makes Me Dance” -- thus freeing Brinberg to do “My Man” at show’s end.

Some nice Broadway names would be attached, too. Loni Zoe Ackerman would be Mrs. Brice, Gene Castle was tabbed for Mr. Keeney, and Harvey Evans would portray Flo Ziegfeld.

I wasn’t the only one looking forward to it. When I approached the Paramount Theatre on the famous Asbury Park boardwalk, I was stunned at how many people had turned out for the show: Hundreds of heterosexual and gay couples, many powers-that-be from New Jersey theater, and plenty of New Yorkers. On my way in on down the aisle to my seat, I shook hands or said hello to more than a dozen people I knew.
1,600 others filled the large orchestra and substantial mezzanine, too.

And were we all primed for this evening! Kazan delivered the goods on some bittersweet stories and her song, and as the lights dimmed, the crowd roared its approval. Then came what I consider to be musical theater’s greatest overture (and yes, of course I’ve heard Gypsy). Even strangely out-of-tune-sounding violins couldn’t put a damper on what was to come.
Brinberg certainly can sing a la Streisand. He knows how to put a breath between “that,” “same” and “night” in “Sadie, Sadie” and how to mimic many other of the lady’s affectations, too. The problem, though, was one that we heard about Debbie Gibson’s stab at the role some years ago – that “they should have changed the title to just Girl.”

In short, Brinberg didn’t know how to whack a joke from here to Hackensack. He was slightly better in Act Two when he didn’t have to be funny, but his serious acting chops could have used some additional attention, too.

My theory is that Brinberg is best when he’s imitating latter-day Streisand, the one he knows from the videos of her all-too-infrequent concert appearances. He has less access to the 21-year-old who starred in Funny Girl on Broadway in 1964.
One could argue that he has that 1968 film to guide him, but Streisand was a very different animal by then. Listen to the cast album and then the soundtrack, and you’ll see that on the latter disc, she’s playing with the songs, not quite singing the notes that Jule Styne wrote for her, but is riffing on many of them. In this film, Streisand, despite a performance that won an Oscar, distanced herself a little from the material. So did Brinberg.

To be fair, staged concerts of musicals are famous for having little rehearsal time, so with a few extra days or weeks, a director might have been able to draw what was missing from Brinberg. Too bad, for much of the rest of the cast was up to their assignments, though the actress who played one of Mrs. Brice’s poker-playing buddies was so over-the-top and intent on stealing the show that she embarrassed herself.

All right. We all went home, and were prepared to forget about it. But then something happened that, in the 48 consecutive years that I’ve been paying attention to Broadway, I’ve never experienced.

For on Monday morn, this is what I found from ReVision Theatre in my e-mailbox.

We know that some were disappointed with this past Saturday evening’s presentation of FUNNY GIRL.

For those who have seen our shows in the past, you know our quality has been exceedingly high. Our past productions included "Hello, Dolly!" with the incomparable Richard Skipper as Carol Channing, our sold out production of "Hair" last summer in the Carousel House, the hysterical "Scrooge in Rouge" this past December, and, this past spring, "Kingdom" an innovative and fresh new hip hop rock musical. All of these shows received rave reviews from audience members and critics alike and all of them involved our willingness to take risks.

We pride ourselves on producing new works and classic works in a new way. Our company is founded on the belief that risk taking produces great theatre. When you take risks you sometimes succeed and sometimes fail. History has shown that very nature of live theatre produces more flops than hits.

Everyone will not always like all of our shows. Theatre is, as is all art, subjective, but the commitment to quality we put into it will never be less that top notch.

Steven Brinberg, a cabaret artist came to us highly recommended with a huge reputation as the premier Barbra Streisand impersonator. His cabaret act has been seen and loved by thousands throughout the world. Knowing that, we thought that as a benefit performance he would shine as Fanny Brice in FUNNY GIRL.
In FUNNY GIRL we had a wonderful cast and ensemble of Broadway veterans and Connor Gallagher the director/choreographer did an amazing job. The dance numbers were fabulous and we were delighted with Lainie Kazan as she introduced the evening.

FUNNY GIRL was a benefit and billed as a concert. We modeled the presentation after the Encores series in NY at City Center which are produced with limited costumes and sets, and with the performers on book. With our presentation, this is necessary because all of the performers are working professionals who are volunteering their time to help support live theatre here in Asbury Park. As such, they are only available for an extremely limited number of rehearsals. Ticket sales for our full main-stage productions only cover a portion of a show’s expenses. Benefits and other donations are necessary to help make up the difference.

As a benefit, FUNNY GIRL raised much needed funds to help us continue our mission as a professional regional theatre in Asbury Park. We are exceedingly grateful for your support and we know we cannot do what we do without you.

We also realize that the adage "you're only as good as your last show" is true. If you are among those who felt that FUNNY GIRL did not meet your expectations we apologize. If we had the chance to go back in time we would certainly make some very different decisions.

We hope, however, that you will continue to support us and to support the process that is vital to exciting live theatre.

Please join us for our next full main-stage production of THE FULL MONTY which runs from August 12 thru September 6 in the Carousel House on the Boardwalk in Asbury Park and be a part of that process.

We welcome your comments or feedback at any time. Please email us at to offer your comments.

THE FULL MONTY TICKET OFFER to help make it easier for you to come back! Use code: MontyOffer and receive 25% off your tickets but HURRY! Offer expires this Wednesday July 15 at Midnight. Order online at or by phone at 732-455-3059. Please continue your support of risk taking theatre!

The entire producing team of the ReVision Theatre.

Have you ever seen a written apology from a theater? Oh, I can recall some shows that opened to putrid reviews and said, “Come, and if you don’t like it, we’ll give you your money back.” But I’ve never seen a theater admit that it offered a not-so-hot show.

Of course, e-mails make this easier, and don’t involve much labor or any postage. If theaters of years past sent out such a letter when a show bombed, the post office wouldn’t now have a deficit, and Central Park would be nothing but grass, because all the trees would have been required to be chopped down to make enough paper for the apologies.

One could argue that this is just a different way of sending out a “Buy now at a discount!” ticket offer, but I see it as a healthy move. Many theaters would have blithely insisted that it had delivered the goods, and said that if you didn’t like the show, hey, that was your problem.

But because I saw Hair and Kingdom -- and thought they were marvelously done – I have a feeling that ReVision Theatre is letting its considerable audience know that it can tell a good show from a bad one. Isn’t that the height of NON-nonchalance?


With grateful XOXOXs for your support!

Richard Skipper

Follow me on Twitter @RichardSkipper


Now a night out in NY to see a show at a VERY AFFORDABLE price!
Richard Skipper, along with Dana Lorge, is hosting a weekly variety show in NYC at The Iguana VIP Lounge in the heart of NYC (240 West 54th Street 8-11PM/with an intermission). WEDNESDAY NIGHT AT THE IGUANA! What they are doing is NOT being done anywhere else! Each week will showcase 5 entertainers. Other entertainers that show up will be inserted throughout the show as time permits/this is done by lottery!
AND each are joined by Barry Levitt on keyboard and Saadi Zain on bass.Each week will be different. The price is ONLY $10.00 with NO food or drink minimum (although the food at The Iguana is top notch). This is a nice night out with the family! The show will also be done with class and elegance.
A "throw back" to the variety shows we grew up with. For more info, please call 845-365-0720 or visit RESERVATIONS A MUST!!!!!!!!! 845-365-0720. No one admitted before 7:30.
TONIGHT (July 15th) guests include: Suzannah Bowling, Diana LeBlanc, Mitch Kahn, Gretchen Reinhagen, and Kim Schultz Improv Group... and a few other surprises as well! Remember $10.00 Cover/No food or drink minimum!

July 22nd: Michael Austin, Jonathan Long, Sue Matsuki, Maria Ottavia, and Felicia Strassman AND Sharon McNight

July 29th: 2009 Bistro Award Winner for Outstanding Debut: Deb Burman, Kristopher Monroe, Marcus Simeone, Maureen Taylor, and Susan Winter.

August 5th: Sandi Durell, Bobbie Horowitz, Carolyn Ohlbaum, Brent Winborn, and Yaffa

August 12th: Barbara Gurskey, Rachel Stone and Leslie Orofino confirmed (Others TBA)

"What a bright, warm, funny host you are! Thank you so much for allowing me to jump up and enjoy my craft last night. Looking forward to the next one!” –Sierra Rein”

“That was a great evening, glitches or no glitches. My friend Deb Mayer (who I introduced you to, and is a fabulous actress) said she absolutely loved the format you have devised. XXXOOO Diana LaBlanc

“Such a deal!! 3 hours of excellent live entertainment for $10 deserves SRO every week!!!!” Carolyn Kalmus

“Thank you so much for last night! And thanks to Dana also! I had an absolute ball! Looking forward to coming back on August 5, and hopefully sooner.”
Carolyn Ohlbaum

TIM MCCLOONE'S SUPPER CLUB, 1200 Ocean Avenue, Asbury Park, NJ
Starring Stephen Brinberg as Barbra Strisand, Tommy Femia as Judy Garland, and myself as Carol Channing joined by Christopher Denny on piano! ALL LIVE! NO LIP SYNCH!! ALL ON ONE STAGE

Steven Brinberg writes and stars as Simply Barbra which is updated annually as he travels the globe with the show. This year he appears with Marvin Hamlisch and the Symphony Orchestras of Dallas, Milwaukee, Buffalo and Norfolk. Prior appearances with Mr. Hamlisch include one with Barbara Cook and the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center and another at Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh. He recently narrated the New York City Gay Men's Chorus concert at Avery Fisher Hall, written especially for him by Terrence McNally. That program was also seen in Seattle.

Tommy has won an unprecedented 5 MAC Awards for Outstanding Impersonation and a Back Stage Bistro Award for his work. Tommy also received a 6th MAC Award for Outstanding Musical Comedy Duo for "Judy Garland & Liza Minnelli Live!," co-starring Christine Pedi (Forbidden Broadway, The Sopranos) as Judy's daughter Liza Minnelli.

And ME!
Now we join forces for what promises to be quite an exciting evening!


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