BWW Reviews: Bryan Batt Rocks Rockwell
On Tuesday, July 2, Bryan Batt appeared at Rockwell on Vermont in Hollywood in Batt on a Hot Tin Roof. The show may have had nothing to do with Tennessee Williams, as Batt pointed out at the top, but boy oh boy did he SIZZLE.
Batt, known to many from AMC's original series Mad Men, is a handsome, debonair Broadway singer with uber credits ranging from Beauty and the Beast to the internationally famous Forbidden Broadway, which he described, due to its multiple costume changes, as "the most exhausting show". Batt not only brings a Broadway background to his act but has been doing benefits for charitable causes such as for the victims of Katrina in night club/cabaret in New Orleans and New York for many years.
There's something to be said for 'fitting in' or being 'comfortable in your own skin' in front of others, especially onstage, and Batt has nailed that quality. Too bad it cannot be bottled for young performers to follow! He knows who he is, is not afraid to admit he's gay, and with the utmost confidence, eagerly wishes to share these feelings with his audience. And what an outpouring of charm! "He was born to play the Palace" or some such expression defines him to the letter. His delightful patter in the 70-minute set includes story/song/story/song in a rapid.fire delivery that is warm, humorous and at times quite touching. He identified with his mother, a perfect Southern lady, whom he referred to as "hoop skirt girl" for she actually owned a hoop skirt. One time, in the 60s when "Downtown" came on the car radio, a very young Bryan lunged forward from the backseat and asked his mother for her hairbrush so he could use it as a microphone to sing along with Petula Clark, and of course, in truly devoted motherly fashion, she obliged. Batt loved his dad, a baseball/Jack Daniels kind of guy, but could never get close to him. It wasn't until his dad was hospitalized that the two shared some interesting trivia about Bob Fosse and Damn Yankees...a moving moment of connection, expressed with "What You'd Call a Dream". His first Broadway outing as a kid was to see Gilda Radner. He was dressed in a Seersucker suit and white bucks - he amusingly called this an Internet predator's dream - and when he heard Radner's opening song "Let's Talk Dirty to the Animals", he was convinced he would be 'dragged from the theatre by his collar', but was floored to see his mother and grandmother Hazel ("Hazelnut") laughing uproariously. He also read a delicious letter from a frenzied fan Jess from New Jersey, who had a lisp and was unafraid to openly express her adoration for him and his career. It is this kind of earthy, honest yet eccentric humor that gives Batt a loving, endearing style onstage.
Other highlights of the evening included: "City of New Orleans", a beautiful rendering of Cole Porter's "Night and Day" as well as "Unusual Way" from Nine, great 60s musical memories of "Wives and Lovers" paired with "This Guy's In Love with You", "New York State of Mind", his second home after New Orleans, and two great Pete Mills' tunes "Way Ahead of My Time" and "It's Amazing the Things That Float". Batt appropriately closed with "I Am What I Am" and as encore sang a lovely song of gratitude "Infinite Joy". Musical director Michael Lavine provided superb accompaniment at the piano throughout.
This is my first time seeing Bryan Batt perform. It will definitely not be my last. He is a wonderful singer with tremendous dynamics, has an exuberance of personality and warmth, is eclectically funny, and after Jason Graae, is perhaps the second most affable cabaret artist performing today...anyone who sweats that much for his art has got my vote!