Review: Charles Busch

Legendary playwright and drag performer Charles Busch has always combined elegantly languid, self-effacing charm with an effortlessly brassy glamour. His current cabaret act, titled “My Kinda ’60s” is the first club act of his I’ve seen where we find Charles in boy drag – albeit with a subtle dash of rouge, wearing an emerald green paisley suit with rhinestone buttons.

Busch has a pleasantly throaty high tenor voice. As with the greatest cabaret singers, it’s all about how Busch acts the story and emotion of a song: He finds corners I didn’t know existed in the Bacharach / David ballad “Anyone Who Had a Heart.” Busch sincerely loves artifice; usually, he invests every moment he has on-stage with substantial style.

Here, the lack of wigs and dresses also signifies that Charles is going for something a little more personal and vulnerable. Because this isn’t just a random 1960s-themed show. It is, above all, a love letter to Busch’s Aunt Lillian, an eccentric and loving lady who helped him bloom as he came of age in that turbulent decade.

Busch is very precise about his pop culture references. He successfully catches the feeling of trying to keep up with confusing changing times. As a matter of fact one of the definite high points of the show is a supremely confident rendition of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’” which, he observes, is even more timely today.

The act isn’t all earnest sincerity, though there’s more of that than usual. There are still plenty of quoted Judy Garland mannerisms. As always, he moves from one glittering camp archetype to another with effortless ease. It’s just the tone that has shifted. It’s fun, but the undercurrent of social comment that runs through all of Busch’s work is much more explicit. Highly recommended.

For tickets, click here.

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

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