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Review: SONGS THAT MADE US GAY At The Green Room 42 A Feast Of Friendship And Queer Culture

Review: SONGS THAT MADE US GAY At The Green Room 42 A Feast Of Friendship And Queer Culture

Michael Buchanan and Todd Buonopane put it all up front and in the light, where it belongs.

Singing actor Michael Buchanan made a welcome and long-missed return to the nightclub stages of New York City after a thirteen-year absence, when he and longtime best friend Todd Buonopane played The Green Room 42 on Sunday night with SONGS THAT MADE US GAY. Chances are that there was no person out there who saw Michael Hull's brilliant artwork for this musical cabaret, read the names Michael Buchanan and Todd Buonopane alongside the title Songs That Made Us Gay and thought, "Michael and Todd are gay?" Like the moment in A League of Their Own when Rosie O'Donnell says, "You think there are men in this country who ain't seen your bosoms?" a person would have to be completely and totally unaware of the hurricane and tornado that are Buonopane and Buchanan to not know that they are two of the entertainment industry's biggest advocates for living Out, Loud, and Proud. Mr. Buonopane (who, happily, spends more time on the nightclub stages than his BFF) has built entire comedy acts around his life as a gay man, while Mr. Buchanan's Unicorn-themed jetski wedding entrance with fellow groom Jason Gilbert made national news. These Boyz are a living testament to the remarkable changes that the world has seen in gay rights and visibility, as well as the power of living an authentic life.

Is it any wonder their nightclub act would be just as gay and authentic as they are?

For their sold-out (SOLD. OUT. #bighint #encore #runofshows) performance Misters Buchanan and Buonopane presented eighty minutes of music, comedy, campery, and LGBTQIA+ representation in an ongoing discussion... monologue... comedy skit... parade float... well, all of the above informed by their mutual lives as little gay boys, bullied gay teens, and, eventually, men who controlled their own narrative. To make sure that they were completely true to themselves, there was a bounty of Broadway (for Todd), a plethora of pop (for Michael), and a soupçon of sincerity (seriousness was not high on their list of priorities for the program). As Michael and Todd camped it up, goofed it out, and showered one another with affection that was, very clearly, decades-long, the evening was like a mad dash, a sprint, a race to the finish, with only occasional pauses for chat, like Michael's touching tribute to his mother, Becky Buchanan, beaming from the front row, or both gentlemen taking a few minutes to discuss the heinous shooting in Colorado and the importance of remaining strong and committed to staying alive and staying strong within the community and the community of the world. And even as outrageous and ridiculous as the beautiful boyz got, it was never false. It was never coy. It was never anything but authentic because this is, clearly, who Todd Buonopane and Michael Buchanan are: gorgeous gay men carving out lives and careers and building friendships and family. It was uplifting. It was rewarding. And it was entertaining.

Review: SONGS THAT MADE US GAY At The Green Room 42 A Feast Of Friendship And Queer Culture

As for the program itself, both men are accomplished singers who chose material that not only suits their styles and aesthetics, it tells their story. Michael Buchanan may be one of the best boy singers in the business, able to belt out a Broadway show tune with the best of them, but his interests have always leaned into pop divas like Paula Abdul and Tori Amos, while Buonopane, who outlined the obsessive nature of his relationships with Liza Minnelli and Bernadette Peters, is proud to be a Broadway Baby - hence Michael Hull's show art inspired by THE RINK window-card. And on the subject of The Rink, while every number performed excelled (particularly Todd's Bernadette Peters Medley and Michael's number from Chess), the unquestionable highlight of the evening was the famed "Apple Doesn't Fall" duet from the iconic flop musical that got Chita Rivera her first Tony Award. It was comedically hilarious, harmonically impressive, and personally adorable to see these two chums go all Julie and Carol with a larger-than-life duet of this nature. The other highlight of the night was when they dialed it way back for a moment of charming introspection and total tenderness with the optimistic "Rainbow Connection" being sung more sweetly than ever before, since Kermit first sang it, way back when. The love and affection were in the room, for all to see and enjoy, and enjoy, we did.

SONGS THAT MADE US GAY is a good piece of cabaret theater, and if the duo wants to bring it back for some more performances, it would be nice to see them employ the services of a director, just for some touch-ups. Michael and Todd are credited as the co-writers and co-directors of the piece, and, right now, it needs a little tightening up. The actors have rehearsed the production within an inch of its life, and well they should because there are intricate comedy bits requiring substantial amounts of timing, and they do all these bits extremely well, as well as they do all their singing. However, with so many comedy bits, with so much fast-talking verbiage, an extra set of eyes sitting in the house would be beneficial - someone to say things like, "That is getting lost," and "Take your time there" and (very importantly) "Take all the comedy out of this and go full-on sincere, here." There is a structure to a good cabaret play, just as there is a structure to a good theatrical play, and it is important to give the audience breaks from the heightened theatricality, it is important to let them in, to let them see you, but those moments must be as properly timed as the comedy bits. Songs That Made Us Gay is, indeed, a good musical comedy cabaret show... but it can be great. A director who understands the structure, as well as the rise and fall, the ebb and flow, the light and shade will help this burgeoning Vaudeville act to place themselves on every stage in the industry that they wish to play, which they could do. What a director will not have to do with Todd and Michael is instill in them the need to learn their lyrics because these boyz are professional musical theater actors and they went out on that stage with every last word memorized. No music stands. No lyric sheets. No tablets or devices. Buchanan and Buonopane knew every single word, note, and beat of their show, by heart, and, in these sad times when so many rely on a prompter, that carries weight and water with this writer. Bravo.

It's a wonderful thing that Michael Buchanan and Todd Buonopane have done, bringing this show that they tried out in Provincetown into the city. In P-Town there was a certain guarantee that the show would play well - it's an LGBT resort town, and these are two appealing men with a lot of LGB-To offer. In Manhattan, there is a big queer community, but there is also the general public to consider, and when it comes to ticket sales, every demographic has to be considered. Songs That Made Us Gay is musical comedy cabaret, not just gay musical comedy cabaret - it is touching, it is honest, it is funny, and it is steeped in great music and proper musical performances. It is a show that anyone can enjoy, and it is a show that this writer recommends club bookers look at and audience members go to because Buchanan and Buonopane are worthy of the time and attention.

The Songs That Made Us Gay band is

Mark Galinivsky Musical Directing and on keys

Eric Wharton on Bass

Chris McWilliams on Drums

Kevin David Thomas provided certain arrangements (Opening Medley, Bernadette Peters Medley, Miserable Ladies of the 80s)

Find shows to see on the Green Room 42 website HERE.

THIS is the Michael Buchanan Instagram and HERE is the Todd Buonopane website.

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From This Author - Stephen Mosher

Stephen Mosher is the author of The Sweater Book (a collection of his photography featuring celebrated artists from the entertainment communities of New York, Los Angeles, and London), Lived In Cra... (read more about this author)

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