Cabaret 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.

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Written by Jonathan Warman

Jonathan Warman

Jonathan Warman is’s exclusive theatre critic. He also writes regular music and cabaret reviews. Jonathan is also accomplished freelance Stage Director. You can e-mail him at or by clicking on the social networking links below.

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