Are you looking for last-minute New Year’s Eve entertainment? Celebrate the arrival of 2017 at Feinstein’s/54 Below as two stars return to usher in the new year! Two-time MAC Award winner, Tony nominee, and drag legend Charles Busch will bring laughs and glamour to the 7 p.m. show. After a sold out New Year’s Eve show last year, Tony Award winner Annaleigh Ashford, once again accompanied by Will Van Dyke and the Whiskey 5,will conjure New Year’s Magic! at11p.m. A dance party to celebrate the New Year will follow the performance.
Charles Busch brings to Feinstein’s/54 Below an eclectic program of songs both contemporary and from the past. New York Times critic Stephen Holden wrote, “He has the gift of comic gab like few other entertainers. Innately funny, endearing and acutely intelligent, he also has claws. For an audience, the possibility of being scratched, although remote, lends his humor a bracing edge.” Accompanied by his dashing longtime musical director Tom Judson, Busch combines hilarious personal reminiscence, character sketches and superb storytelling through song into one glittering and glamorous evening in cabaret.
Come ring in 2017 with an eclectic mix of songs, stories, some sort-of impressive magic tricks, and an appearance made by a rainbow. Tony Award winner Annaleigh Ashford (Sylvia, You Can’t Take It With You, Kinky Boots, Showtime’s Masters of Sex) and music director Will Van Dyke reprise some of their Lost In The Stars favorites as well as debut some new tunes to celebrate this past year. Get your midnight kiss in one of the swankiest rooms in New York during a night that’s sure to be one of laughter, love, looking back, and looking forward.
Cover charges for the 7pm show range from $75-$140 with a $45 food and beverage minimum. Cover charges for the 11pm show range from $325-$495 which includes a two-course prix fixe dinner, dessert buffet, open bar, tax, and gratuity. Premium and Ringside seats include a half bottle of Laurent Perrier Brut Champagne for each party of two and an individual dessert platter during the dance party.
Contributor Jim Gladstone chats with the gender bending theatrical force, Charles Busch.
Charles Busch (photo provided by New Conservatory Theatre Center.)
“I alternately feel like Marlene Dietrich at the end of her career and an old animal act,” quips actor and playwright Charles Busch about the nightclub tour—his first in several years—that brings him to Feinstein’s at the Nikko in San Francisco on September 25 and 26.
“I don’t like being a downer, but I’m not sure if the majority of young gay people are interested in old Hollywood history or cabaret. That’s not really a new thing though,” says Bush, who turned 60 last month. “In the ‘70s, when I was in my 20s and fascinated with old studio system movies, most of my friends were caught up in disco, more into Donna Summer than Bette Davis. But I’ve always sort of modeled my career on the old female movie stars—I think I’ve cultivated a sense of mystique and emotional remove.”
Busch will discuss that career—which runs the gamut from being nominated for a Tony Award for penning The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife, playing a convict in the television prison drama Oz, and creating and starring in the cult off-Broadway hit “Vampire Lesbians of Sodom”—two nights before his Feinstein’s run in a live interview at the New Conservatory Theatre Center, where his camp-tastic play Die, Mommie, Die! will have its Bay Area premiere the following week.
Busch says he’s looking forward to meeting San Francisco-based actor J. Conrad Frank—best-known as drag character, Katya Smirnoff-Skyy—who will be playing murderous washed-up pop singer Angela Arden in the NCT production. It’s a role Busch originally wrote for himself.
“A lot of times when my plays are done around the country,” Busch says, “I get pictures, and the leads are like Ernest Borgnine in a dress. Conrad looks like he will be rather glamorous.”
Die, Mommie, Die! (J. Conrad Frank, Ali Haas, Devin O’Brien. Photo by Lois Tema via The Broadway Blog.)
Busch himself will be in full glam at Feinstein’s. “It’s kind of an odd act,” he says, “They introduce me as Charles Busch, and I come out looking like Arlene Dahl. I sing songs by Harold Arlen and Kurt Weill, and I tell anecdotes from my life and my experiences. I could do the job out of drag, but it seems better when I’m in drag. I’m looser and more uninhibited.” While drawing on his own memories, Busch says he uses his life as a source of “fun anecdotes” rather than the self-pitying and self-aggrandizing confessional material that seems to be in vogue among gay cabaret artists these days.
“Elaine Stritch’s act was phenomenal. But she was one-of-a-kind,” he notes, “After that, you started to see a lot of jacking off on stage.
Among the highlights of Busch’s past cabaret performances being reprised on his current tour, are his monologues as showbiz-obsessed suburban matron Miriam Passman. The Passman character was the basis for Marjorie Traub, the lead role in Allergist’s Wife, played on Broadway by Linda Lavin—Tony-nominated for the part—and Rhea Perlman.
Charles Busch (photo provided by New Conservatory Theatre Center).
While the drag-free Allergist has been Busch’s biggest mainstream success and led to several lucrative writing gigs, he says “I really think my work is the most interesting when I perform my own writing.”
In addition to writing and acting, Busch has recently delved back into his first artistic pursuit. “Film and theater is all collaboration, but there’s something marvelous about making art all by yourself. I started out as a painter. I was an art major at the High School of Music and Art, and for a long time—until I was 30—I couldn’t earn a living in theater. Instead of being a waiter, I worked as a quick sketch portrait artist, working at Renaissance fairs and on the boardwalk in Wildwood, New Jersey.”
“I think that for a long time after I made some money, I subconsciously associated drawing and painting with bad times in my past, when I had to do this very commercial, sensibility-coarsening version of visual art to get by. But about three years ago, I said to myself, I’ve got this gift, and I should tinker around with it a little more.”
Busch was one of twenty performers commissioned by Turner Classic Movies to create works of art inspired by classic films. Through that project, he met a longtime idol, fellow thespian-painter Kim Novak.
“We started emailing back and forth about our art work, and I realized she probably didn’t know who I was. To her, I was a nice gay boy who worked in pastels. I have very high standards and I’m not quite meeting them in painting yet, so I wrote to tell her about my career as a performer. I mean, I knew she liked me, but I wanted her to know that I was really talented.”
Take a peek of Charles Busch as his alter ego, Miriam Passman:
Jim Gladstone is a San Francisco-based creative consultant and writer. A book columnist and Contributing Editor at PASSPORT, he is the author of an award-winning novel, The Big Book of Misunderstanding.
Daniel Clarkson & Jefferson Turner in "Potted Potter". Image via David Gersten & Associates.
The stars, as in big name stars, are aligning on Broadway and we’ve got the scoop in a bite-sized theater news round-up:
Harry Potter is coming back to the New York. Well, not exactly THE Harry Potter but the 2012 Olivier Award nominee Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience. The family friendly parody will play a limited engagment at the Little Shubert Theater starting May 19, promising to squeeze all seven books into seventy minutes…which basically makes the guy from One Man Star Wars Trilogylook like a total slacker.
Oscar-nominee Amy Adams will be The Baker’s Wife in this summer’s Shakespeare in the Park production of Into the Woods. No word yet on the rest of the leads but if this is the first announcement (and it’s pretty great casting, even if she strikes me more as a Cinderella), one has to imagine there are even bigger names to come. The mind boggles…Meryl as the Witch?
"Through a Glass Darkly". Photo by Ari Mintz.
The first award nominations are out for the 2011-2012 season! The Lucille Lortel Awards, given to excellence in Off-Broadway theater, and they feature a strong line-up of worthy works including Broadway Blog favorites director/choreographer Oscar-nominee Carey Mulligan (Through a Glass Darkly), Christopher Gattelli (Silence), An Iliad and Marin Mazzie (Carrie). Of particular note, the musical Once–now on Broadway–received a number of nominations which are likely to be matched at the Tonys.
If the Tony Awards committee could bestow sainthood, you know that the second name on the list (after Audra McDonald, of course) would be Neil Patrick Harris for his telecast-saving turns as host. Look for him to add another miracle to his resume when he returns to lead the 2012 Tony Awards show in June.
And finally, the biggest star of them all (at least in his/her fantasy world of retro-fabulousness) Charles Busch has another hit on his hands even before it opens. His latest vehicle, Judith of Bethulia, has already sold out all tickets for its limited run at Theater for the New City. That’s epic, indeed.
There are times when the news from the stage gets so exciting, I want to jump up and sing. Like I’m built out of Legos. And performing Mamma Mia. With Czech subtitles. If I did, it might look something like this:
I told you. Wow. (And, somehow, you still get the nuances of the story.) Well, that’s exactly how I feel about this quick news round-up:
The Atlantic Theater Company isn’t playing around as it celebrates it’s 25th Anniversary; it’s pulling out the big guns and loading them with super high caliber talent. (Ouch, that metaphor even hurt me.) 10×25 features a rotating set of ten-minute plays by the iconic likes of John Guare (Six Degrees of Separation), Ethan Coen (No Country For Old Men), Jez Butterworth (Jerusalem), Tina Howe (Coastal Disturbances), Craig Lucas (Reckless), David Auburn (Proof), Sam Shepard (Buried Child) and, of course, Atlantic leading light David Mamet (do I really have to?). As Mamet might say, this big f—ing deal runs through June 26.
Two big openings last night: a revival of Anything Goes headlined by the sparkling and (if you’ve seen the show, you know what I mean) indefatigable Sutton Foster; and the star-studded—heck, more like star-swamped—limited engagement concert version of Company. The Sondheim classic features so many one-named (Lupone, Colbert), two-named (Jon Cryer, Katie Finneran) and even three-named (Neil Patrick Harris, New York Philharmonic) megastars that, according to this fascinating piece in the New York Times, they had to rehearse via Skype. It gives new meaning to going online and asking “what are you wearing?”
Photo by Joan Marcus.
The dresses are going back in the closet for two recent theatrical hits. The Broadway revival of La Cage Aux Folles announced it is shuttering May 1 (giving Chris Sieber his much deserved rest after all) and, on the same day, my Off-Broadway favorite, The Divine Sister, hangs up her habit. Time to find some sensible shoes for pounding the pavement, gals.
Two of the best singer-actors in the business, Kelli O’Hara (South Pacific) and Brian d’Arcy James (Time Stands Still) headline a tribute to music theater power couple Jason Robert Brown and Georgia Stitt on Monday, April 11. The concert benefits CAP21, an amazing organization devoted to developing new work and training the next generation of performers. Full disclosure: they’re workshopping one of my pieces so your ticket dollars help keep me and other music theater ruffians off the streets and out of singing-dancing gangs.
The cast is in place for the revival of Larry Kramer’s groundbreaking A Normal Heart which means that Lee Pace is now breathing the same New York air as I am. Seriously folks, was there ever a more perfect Broadway-loving show on TV than the late, lamented Pushing Daisies?
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Every first Wednesday of the month, get caught up on what’s new on stage with a review round-up. And that vaguely hollow, clinking sound you hear at the end of each segment? That’s me tossing in my two cents.
With the spring season about to ramp up, I thought I’d offer a sneak peek edition of “To See or Not to See” featuring a critical look at two shows that are up and running (or tumbling into the pit) and a tease for the three shows I’m most excited to catch in the months ahead.
Image via Google (Sara Krulwich, The New York Times)
Following multiple delays and bruised bodies (as well as egos), the bank-busting, comic book musical—directed by The Lion King‘s Julie Taymor and with music by U2’s Bono and The Edge—still hasn’t officially opened. But that hasn’t stopped most major critics from piling on like a spandex sale at the Justice League.
“Spider-Man is not only the most expensive musical ever to hit Broadway; it may also rank among the worst.” New York Times
“An inconsistent, maddening show that’s equal parts exciting and atrocious.” New York Post
“It’s by turns hyperstimulated, vivid, lurid, overeducated, underbaked, terrifying, confusing, distracted, ridiculously slick, shockingly clumsy, unmistakably monomaniacal and clinically bipolar. But never, ever boring.” New York Magazine
“Beyond the offstage drama and lavish budget, and all the feats and flash accompanying them, lies an endearingly old-fashioned musical.” USA Today
Mizer’s Two Cents: If you love stagecraft, go for the jaw-dropping mixture of high tech wizardry and classic theater/puppetry techniques. And now with reports spreading that major reworking is about to happen (with script and music doctors), this could be a truly fascinating chance to see a new show being built before our eyes. But, at Broadway ticket prices, this graduate level theater class won’t come cheap. All that being said, I do hope folks can take a step back from some of the more sensational talk about the working conditions. One of the guys in charge of the flying harnesses actually flew me for a year when I was on tour and he would have thrown himself in front of a two ton set piece to protect me. Whatever stories have been spread, I’d wager my life savings that the crew of this show is doing everything humanly possible to ensure the safety of the performers.