BWW Review: Charles Busch Makes Smashing Cabaret Debut at Rockwell
Charles Busch is more than just a drag artist; he is a bonafide actor/actress. This has been amply proved through the last 40 years in the performances of his plays off-Broadway and on tour with Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, Psycho Beach Party, and Die, Mommy, Die! among many others. Now in his LA cabaret debut at Rockwell Table and Stage with That Girl/That Boy, Busch has added more dimension, more layers to his persona in performance as he exposes himself to the audience from the inside out and comes clean in a dress as ... Charles Busch.
It was a marvelous show (I attended the second night March 14) where Busch let it all hang out for 80 minutes of laughter, song and delicious storytelling about episodes from his life...with his biting sense of humor. At one point, he said quite amusingly, "Cabaret is not like the theatre where we have punchlines that allow us to go forward. Here we break into a song." Humble about the last 5 years he has spent with superb musical director/accompanist Tom Judson to perfect himself as a cabaret performer, Busch cracked many a joke about the difficulty of the medium. He should never fear for his audiences are loyal fans, gleaning joy from his every word and gesture. I know this fan certainly is. He was having fun, and so was I.
I was moved to tears with the Sondheim selections "With So Little To Be Sure Of" in tandem with the poignant "Too Many Mornings" from Follies, as well as with Michel Legrand's "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?" combined with the gorgeous "I Will Wait For You" from Umbrellas of Cherbourg. I hadn't realized that Busch spent a year in Copenhagen during his college years at Northwestern U. There were delicious memories from this segment of his life concluding with a very touching, introspective "I Wonder What Became of Me". Busch's feelings came pouring out of him in these selections. You could read every emotion on his face from moment to moment. Also very impressive was a "Flower Medley"with "Hurry! It's Lovely Up Here" as he told of his Aunt Lillian, an Auntie Mame-like character, who nurtured him, a terribly shy and introverted boy after his mother's death, and taught him to take care of her African Violets, and of course, be nurturing toward every living thing outside of himself. At one point while singing, Busch moved behind the piano slowly and plaintively and after a short pause, gathered up full steam and came bursting center stage, delivering the final lyrics as in an aria with an abundance of big, bold powerhouse assurance.
Also on hand were a striking rendition of "Surabaya Johnny", a rousing "Those Were the Days" and a wonderfully hopeful "Rainbow Connection" as finale. Busch's delivery is strong, clear and possesses warmth and optimism. He also utilizes consummate phrasing at all times. This interpretation smacks of the theatre actor, well trained and vibrantly alive. As you listen to him you come to know that there's quite a lovely voice in that set of pipes.
Don't miss Charles Busch, as I believe this show is going on tour! In the meantime go to amazon or itunes and purchase his new CD Charles Busch Live at 54 Below which contains many of the selections from this delightfully enjoyable live performance.