Charles Busch: My Kinda ’60s

| October 29, 2017

Charles Busch

My Kinda ’60s

Feinstein’s/54 Below,NYC, October 17, 2017

Reviewed by Elizabeth Ahlfors for Cabaret Scenes

Charles Busch

With pathos, wit and the piano wizardry of Tom Judson, Charles Busch’s My Kinda ’60s added up to a delightful cabaret show at Feinstein’s/54 Below. No spectacular movie-star costume for this show. Busch, wearing a green paisley suit, greeted his full-house audience with “Bless you, darlings,” and graciously offered Alan Bergman and Lew Spence’s “That Face,” from face, to face, to face before him. 

The affable playwright/performer returned to the club to share memories of the “fascinating ’60s and how it affected me.” An era when many youngsters were said to have found themselves, Busch exclaims, “I found myself at six!” The lady who had his back, however, was his Aunt Lillian, a bit of Auntie Mame, but more Charles Dickens’ great-aunt Betsey Trotwood in David Copperfield.  

Born in Hartfield, NY, Busch’s mother died when he was seven and he came under the influence of his Aunt Lillian in New York City. With his aunt’s rock-solid good taste, a new world opened to him. She insisted that he had talent and he must develop it and be confident. She told him, “Never lie to yourself. Never be Blanche DuBois.” She made sure he was exposed to books and music, went to good schools (The High School of Music and Art), and the theater. For exuberant Aunt Lillian, who loved African violets, he sang the joyful, “Hurry! It’s Lovely Up Here” (Burton Lane/Alan Jay Lerner).

Busch has a husky voice that draws strength when necessary for long lines. He delivers poignancy and hilarity, in collaboration with the imaginative piano and vocal talents of Tom Judson, with songs that clearly meant something in Busch’s life. A salute went to Dionne Warwick’s 1964 hit “Anyone Who Had a Heart” (Burt Bacharach/Hal David), and especially touching was their duet or Leslie Bricusse/Henry Mancini’s movie theme “Two for the Road.” Busch and Judson sang a roundelay to the Turtles’ “Happy Together” and, following Busch’s witty memories of meeting Paul McCartney, Judson played a lovely interlude of McCartney’s “Here, There and Everywhere.”

Interspersed with tales of growing up with Aunt Lillian, Busch brought warm and personal interpretations to some favorites from his kinda ’60s, like Jimmy Webb’s “By the Time I Get to Phoenix.” Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changing,” proved its timeliness and, from the stage version of Cabaret (John Kander and Fred Ebb), he recognized the impasse of character Fräulein Schneider’s rendition of “What Would You Do?” in a world threatened with danger.

Everyone should be so lucky to have an Aunt Lillian to hold hands with while swinging down the street singing an old Russian song that became a late 1960s hit when adapted and been given words by Gene Raskin: “Those Were the Days” (Boris Fomin’s melody had Russian words by Konstantin Podrevsky over 100 years ago). Can you imagine there was anyone in the club who was not tempted to clap along?

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Category: Cabaret Reviews, New York City, New York City Cabaret Reviews, Regional

Comments (2)

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  1. chuckiepie says:

    Charles Busch is my Main Man — (or Woman, as the case may be). There is Absolutely No One like him. CB used to mean DeMille. No More!! Today, CB has a Whole New Meaning. Bravo!

  2. chuckiepie says:

    PS. Chuckiepie is the #007 Code Name for Chuck Prentiss

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