Charles Busch: My Foolish Heart – Captivating

This is Charles Busch’s first stage appearance since a heart operation in December. The packed, buzzing venue testifies to his continued deep, appeal. “I don’t know why I feel compelled to share (this),” he says. “I really don’t approve of confessional cabaret.” The room breaks up. Busch is known for confessional material.

“They rushed me through (the hospital) and I thought (he shrugs )- celebrity?” (Busch’s eyebrows rise.)  He makes the incident (operation, doctors, scar, even observant differences between the ICU and cardiac wings) self-effacing and funny. Picture him, stuck there during the holidays, testing lung power by walking the hallway singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”  Apparently men who’ve had an operation become sensitive. “In this case, I’m all man,” he tells us sheepishly. It’s difficult to imagine the artist more vulnerable and responsive than he already was.

Looking forward to the season, Busch offers a tandem, “It Might As Well Be Spring” (Richard Rodgers/ Oscar Hammerstein II) and “You Must Believe in Spring” (Michel Legrand/Jacques Demy – translation Alan and Marilyn Bergman). His microphone is passed from hand to hand with extravagant gestures. Vocal quivers with the second song which becomes a Pierrot number (the melancholy, here grateful clown).

Noel Coward’s “If Love Were All” is immensely touching. Finesse might be Busch’s middle name. “Hello Young Lovers” (Richard Rodgers/ Oscar Hammerstein II) and “The Folks Who Live On the Hill” (Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein II) is hushed. A lovely arrangement echoes each song beneath the other. Warm empathy is so present it almost creates an aura. He lifts the mic from its stand – I had a love of my own arrives adamant.

Tonight’s single happy song is Garry Bronner/Alan Gordon’s “Happy Together” popularized by The Turtles. “We don’t do many up tunes,” the performer admits. It’s emphatically cheery. Shoulders sway, steps emerge – Busch dances.

A duet of “I Will Wait for You” (Michel Legrand/Jacques Demy-translation Norman Gimbel) arrives cottony in a fine vocal arrangement of real communication. Sondheim stories show both artists in their best light. “This song is very apt for what we’re seeking today” introduces a slowed take on the icon’s “There Won’t Be Trumpets.” There won’t be trumpets or bolts of fire/To say he’s coming/No Roman candles, no angels choir/No sound of distant drumming… Too true, but where is he/she?

Victor Young/Ned Washington’s “My Foolish Heart” we learn, is based on a story by J.D. Salinger who hated the Susan Hayward movie so much he resolved not to let anything else be adapted. Busch would know that. Sound and tone feels like a black and white 40s film – blowing curtain, outside waves lapping the shore. An unexpected “Both Sides Now” (Joni Mitchell) is thoughtful, considered, a poetic recitation in song. I really…don’t…know love…at all, he sings. I really don’t know life…eyes shine. Gorgeous.

Busch ends as he often has with a rousing “Those Were the Days” (Boris Fomin/Konstantin Podrevsky translation Gene Raskin). Our audience spontaneously joins in chorus replete with la-las. Good spirits abound.

Welcome back, Charles.

Photos by Conor Weiss

Charles Busch: My Foolish Heart
MD/Piano- Tom Judson

REPEATED APRIL 25 at 7:00pm

54/Below 
254 West 54th Street
Venue Calendar

About Alix Cohen (1751 Articles)
Alix Cohen is the recipient of ten New York Press Club Awards for work published on this venue. Her writing history began with poetry, segued into lyrics and took a commercial detour while holding executive positions in product development, merchandising, and design. A cultural sponge, she now turns her diverse personal and professional background to authoring pieces about culture/the arts with particular interest in artists/performers and entrepreneurs. Theater, music, art/design are lifelong areas of study and passion. She is a voting member of Drama Desk and Drama League. Alix’s professional experience in women’s fashion fuels writing in that area. Besides Woman Around Town, the journalist writes for Cabaret Scenes, Broadway World, TheaterLife, and Theater Pizzazz. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine, Times Square Chronicles, and ifashionnetwork. She lives in Manhattan. Of course.