Review: Charles Busch

Charles Busch_2016

Legendary playwright and drag performer Charles Busch has always combined elegantly languid, self-effacing charm with an effortlessly brassy glamour. Busch’s main line is comically complex hard-boiled dames, and while he doesn’t leave that behind entirely, this act is in general more sentimental and sincere. The most time he spends in “brassy-land” is when he’s portraying the character Miriam Passman, an under-talented, over-egotistical cabaret dilettante.

When not giving us Ms. Passman, this act is more of a “big sing” than previous presentations. Busch has a pleasantly throaty, not terribly strong, high tenor singing voice – but you don’t come to one of his acts for musical virtuosity. As with the greatest cabaret singers, it’s all about how Busch acts the story and emotion of a song.

The songbook for this show ranges from Jerome Kern to Paul Williams. For each song, Busch takes pains to clearly delineate the details of every image and event, with just a dash of his “dame” persona to give it all an elegantly wry air. He does a clutch of Sondheim songs, and it’s telling that most of them are from the quirky flop Anyone Can Whistle – sweetly off-kilter is the target, and Busch hits it with artful precision.

Busch sincerely loves artifice and invests every moment he has on-stage with substantial style – and a discreetly dishy side, as well. They don’t make ’em like this anymore, and there’s only one Charles Busch.

For tickets, click here.

To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.

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