Recently I attended a one-night-only performance by Charles Busch, which was part of Jazz at Lincoln Center's American Songbook series. The show, titled "The Lady at the Mic", celebrated the repertoire of Julie Wilson, Elaine Stritch, Mary Cleere Haran and Polly Bergen (and Joan Rivers was thrown in for good measure).
First, the positives:
- Charles Busch - I love his stories and his female persona. He conveys warmth and graciousness, with little of the crassness or bitchiness that is so often part of the routine of men who perform in drag.
- The Venue - This was my first time at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Appel Room (in the Time Warner Center). Rather than there being a wall behind the stage, there's a huge window that looks out onto Central Park South and 59th St., which is a pretty spectacular view.
- Tom Judson - Busch's accompanist of the past four years, Judson is talented and sexy - even more so after I looked him up on Google Images. Wow, how did he escape my attention all these years (similar to the reaction I had last year about singer-songwriter Matt Alber)?
Now, the negatives:
- Charles Busch - Singing is not Busch's strength, at least not tonight. Perhaps he had a cold since his voice was a bit ragged and he couldn't hit the high notes. Thankfully, probably well aware of his limitations, his set was interspersed with his witty repartee and Tom Judson's contributions, so his singing was tolerable. Also, during some of the less inspired songs my mind would drift as I gazed out at the cityscape stretching out behind the stage.
- The Venue - Although the physical space is aesthetically pleasing, the seats were squashed together. The seats themselves were chair-stools, so your feet couldn't touch the ground (even those of us who are six feet tall), which became a bit uncomfortable after about 10 minutes. Also, the seats weren't very wide. I've been more comfortable flying coach.
- Tom Judson - After the photos I saw on Google Images, it was a disappointment that he wasn't shirtless.
Nonetheless, the positives outweighed the negatives, and, anyway, an evening spent with Charles Busch is an entertaining one, so I went home with a smile.