Friday, July 10, 2009

This "Funny Girl' is a guy

When it came time to line up their annual benefit production, ReVision Theatre had their stage — that majestic bit of living history known as the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park.
They had their director, the young Broadway vet and choreographer Connor Gallagher. And they had their show — "Funny Girl," that 1964 Styne-Merrill musical of showbiz fantasies fulfilled and real-world relationships failed; the singing, dancing biography of vaudeville stage star Fanny Brice that introduced such enduring songs as "People" and "Don't Rain on My Parade" — not to mention, in her first starring role, a dynamic young force of nature named Barbra Streisand.

But where to find their Fanny? Was there a singing actress available with the larger-than-life skills to take on the signature role of a living legend? A figure who could command the stage of the Paramount and help the Asbury-based ReVision team realize their goals in iconic style?
Calling Steven Brinberg!

An actor and singer whose uncanny impersonation of Streisand has won him a devoted international audience, Brinberg steps into the lead role of "Funny Girl" on Saturday night as the first-ever male Fanny Brice in a legitimate professional production of the show.
The star of the cabaret show "Simply Barbra" thus joins Richard Skipper, the Carol Channing channeler who pulled off a similar feat as the star of last year's ReVision fundraiser, "Hello Dolly!" — the musical that bested "Funny Girl" at the 1964 Tony Awards.

"It's a little scary," says Brinberg of stepping into a part so closely identified with Streisand. "She's completely identified with it — those songs are her signature songs."

"You don't try to exaggerate or out-do her in any way," the performer says of his approach.
"The only answer is not to forget what she's about; to re-create her in ways that people respond to."

Although it's being staged for a single performance only Saturday night, this is no drag-show trifle with taped music and an air of winking parody.
The live orchestra is under the direction of John Fischer, and the producers have stacked the cast with a fairly amazing array of Broadway veterans, including Grant Norman ("Phantom," "Beauty and the Beast") as Brice's unlucky gambler husband Nicky, Loni Ackerman ("Evita," "Cats") as Mrs. Brice, and a host of others representing such shows as "Sunset Boulevard," "Oklahoma!," "Cry-Baby" and "Gypsy."

They've even got a secret weapon — none other than Lainie Kazan, the star of movies ("My Big Fat Greek Wedding," "My Favorite Year"), TV ("The Nanny," "Veronica's Closet") and of course, the stage — where she was actually a member of the original cast of "Funny Girl," understudying and eventually going on for Streisand when the star fell ill. Ms. Kazan will open Saturday's 8 p.m. show with some personal memories of the 1964 production, as well as her own rendition of "His is the Only Music That Makes Me Dance."

It's all for the benefit of the ReVision company and the slate of education programs for children and adults that this group of good neighbors runs from their headquarters inside the city's downtown VFW building. A limited number of tickets ($25-$100) are still available at this writing, for a one-time event that promises to be one of the most talked about in N.J. stage history.
Call 732-455-3059 or visit to reserve.

Orchestras, theaters, museums and other arts organizations in the nation's suburbs are facing additional challenges in the recession.

I’d like to pass on a column by Susan Burack I read in the Houghton, Michigan, Daily Mining Gazette (July 3, 2008 issue).

As we get ready to celebrate this country’s independence, and perhaps do some reflecting on what it stands for, I am reminded of the trip I took to Washington, D.C. several years ago to advocate for the arts.

”It was my first visit to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

”John Kennedy said, ‘There is a connection, hard to explain logically but easy to feel, between achievement in public life and progress in the arts. The age of Pericles was also the age of Phidias. The age of Lorenzo de Medici was also the age of Leonardo de Vinci. The age of Elizabeth was also the age of Shakespeare. And the new frontier for which I campaign in public life, can also be a new frontier for American art.’
”When Bill Ivey, Calumet native and fellow high school band member with Oren Tikkanen, was Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts, he maintained that it was a government agency as important as the Department of Defense.

”Imagine if their budgets were aligned!

”Arts advocacy is about speaking up for funding for the arts. It means contacting our senators and our representative to request their support for funding the National Endowment for the Arts.

”It means being sure that our local school boards understand the value of arts in education when they are working on their budgets.
”Funding for the arts may be difficult to justify in a tight economy.

”However, there are many ways to advocate for the arts. As JFK pointed out, a culture is judged by its arts as much as by its history. What are the arts by which our age will be remembered? What do we value? As my late friend Sally Hruska maintained, ‘Budget is policy.’

How we spend our money indicates what we care about.

In economic development, we know that quality of life, located in a community like ours where the arts thrive, is a factor in business growth.

”What is know as ‘cultural tourism’ generates more dollars for local economies.

”In arts education, there is a strong sense that children who are engaged in the arts are not likely to engage in destructive behavior.
”If all of our schools provided arts education to all of our students before third grade, our prisons might not consume more of the state budget than education.
Frank Rich, now an OpEd columnist, then a drama critic, was a speaker at that advocacy conference in DC. I was thrilled to be introduced to him as one of his fans.

”He was eloquent about the need to support the arts, ‘to provide the cultural nutrients to counteract the junk food of popular culture.’

”Support the arts!”

Pam Hanson

The White Plains Performing Arts Center established a nonprofit musical theater 22 miles from Manhattan in 2007. It had to cancel "Hello, Dolly!" this spring because a lot of corporate and municipal grants dried up.

But board Chairman John Ioris expects to announce a new season shortly. He notes that the tickets are less expensive than Broadway - and come with inexpensive parking.

Our Way, Your Way, Broadway!” New Showtune Open Mic Series Tuesdays 9:30pm – 12:30pm, starting July 7th The new voices of don’t tell mama
Hosted by Dave Foley, Jr. & Michael Kirk

Don’t tell mama is at the heart of New York Cabaret and the New York
Theater district. stablished in 1982, this venue carries on offering
the joyous combination of live music, comedy and fine dining that
epitomizes the best of New York Nightlife. After 27 years in the
business, there is cause for celebration! – don’t tell mama is adding
another color to its rainbow with a special one night a week event
Every Tuesday, beginning July 7th, in the original cabaret room, we
will present “Our Way, Your Way, Broadway!” A Showtune Open Mic
Series featuring the talents of our new restaurant, cabaret and piano
bar staff. Hosted By Dave Foley, Jr. & Michael Kirk with Joe Regan and
Nate Buccieri at the piano. Audience members are invited to perform
in the same spirit as our legendary piano bar which continues 7 nights
a week.

There will be no cover charge - only a 2 drink minimum. Cash only,
please. No reservations are necessary.

The poster-lined walls of don’t tell mama are a testament to numerous
acts that started here and went on to mainstream careers on Broadway,
television and motion pictures. Performers who have graced don’t tell
mama stages have gone on to become the $100,000 Grand Prize Winner on
Star Search, and win the Emmy, Grammy, Tony, Oscar and Pulitzer Prize
– as well as countless MAC, Bistro and Nightlife Awards.

don’t tell mama is a show business landmark, famed throughout the
world, located at 343 West 46th Street, Restaurant Row, between 8th/
9th Avenues.
For performer schedule and more information visit their website at: Telephone: 212-757-0788.

Carol Channing will perform her show Carol Channing and Friends on July 18 at San Francisco State University and on August 31 at the Sacramento Music Circus.
For both programs she will be joined by actress Carole Cook and singer Joyce Aimee. Magician Walt Anthony will be part of the July 18 program, while JoAnne Worley will be on hand to emcee the August 31 performance.

During the shows, Channing offers memories and humorous stories and sings several of her signature tunes, including "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend," " Little Girl From Little Rock" and, "Hello, Dolly!"
For more information, visit GO SEE A LIVE SHOW THIS WEEK! Don't forget to contribute to the DR. CAROL CHANNING & HARRY KULLIJIAN FOUNDATION FOR THE ARTS:

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.
NEXT WEDNESDAY’S (July 15th) guests include: Suzannah Bowling, Diana LeBlanc, Michael Hopewell, Mitch Kahn, 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

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