Busch accepts that “drag” is a fair and unavoidable term to describe his performances, but don’t call him a drag queen.
“Call me a drag legend,” Busch says with a laugh. “I bristle when someone calls me a ‘drag queen.’ If I didn’t feel like there was the slightest edge of patronization in it, I would be more likely to accept it. It’s so wide sweeping.”
Busch is not a female impersonator, though some of the characters he has created are based on starlets. He’s not misogynistic and sees his work as feminist (“I have prided myself on being almost a feminist on stage as far as the strength and dignity of the ladies I play,” he says). What he likes is being comfortable in drag, as in two recent cabaret shows he performed at New York’s 54 Below. He’ll draw from both shows in his performance Tuesday at Cafe Istanbul.
The New Orleans Fringe Festival kicks into top gear today, with shows at 5 p.m., 7 p.m., 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. through Sunday. The new Fringe hub off Architect and Port streets is a big improvement for the festival. Strung with lights, equipped with a full bar and food it's better suited for between-show downtime than the former tent on press street. There also are lounge areas and a fire pit.
Many shows already have good buzz. I caught three last night that are well worth recommending. (Gambit has also positively reviewed Oregon Trail, Possum Kingdom and The Adventures of Butt Boy and Tigger, which are running as "Bring Your Own Venue" shows.)
The concept for Washington D.C.'s Happenstance Theater's show is simple: an oddball bunch of stuffy Victorian socialites, inspired by Edward Gorey characters, have troubles maintaining their dignity. But the execution is brilliant, and even the slightest expressions of shock and horror or defiant glee in the face of misfortune are bizarrely whimsical, funny and fresh. Many of the vignettes are very short and the show moves at a great clip. The pretensions of opera fans is contrasted with a juggling butcher with a bloody apron, and twin schoolgirls who flirt with all sorts of danger. Two clueless cousins out for a walk find a body with a knife sticking out of it. They investigate and extract the knife to examine it. They determine that the knife is so fine and valuable that surely the owner will return to retrieve it. So they stick it back in the original wound (with slow deliberation and care) and go on their way, relieved that the matter is resolved.
The climactic scene is the company's new version of "Dangerous Croquet." In it, a maid has to fill in for The Ambassador, who is late for the game. Things go amiss when the a few mallets swing wildly, and the scene devolves into hilarious slow-motion slapstick as all the players are enraged by one of the society women's jealous players. Cabaret Macabre brilliantly mocks parlor dramas with its clowning and is a delightful show.
Cabaret Macabre is at Marigny Opera House 5 p.m. Friday, 7 p.m. Saturday and 9 p.m. Sunday.
Regardless of your thoughts on the Second Amendment, I recommend signing up for a gun before the beginning of Oregon Trail and taking a seat in the rows marked “Hunting Grounds.”
It’s a fun and silly opportunity to interact with the comedy, which is based on the namesake educational computer game. In NOLA Project Artistic Director A.J. Allegra’s original work, which finishes its run in conjunction with the New Orleans Fringe Festival, the Bootsmeyer family prepares to strike out for Oregon to start a new life in the West. Their quest to reach this promised land is the obvious dramatic arc to the work, and it offers an endlessly entertaining contrast between the lofty ideals and images of conquering the West and the more mundane reality and dangerous distractions of trudging across the continent hampered by illness and wagon breakdowns and being preyed upon by swindlers.
Charles Busch was scheduled to perform Monday, Dec. 2 in the Broadway at NOCCA series. That show has been rescheduled for 8 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 3 at Cafe Istanbul. He'll be accompanied by Tom Judson on piano.
Busch is the author of works including The Tale of the Allergist's WIfe, Psycho Beach Party, Die, Mommie, Die! and The Divine Sister, which he starred in during its New York production. He also appeared on the HBO series Oz. He recently starred in Ridin' High, reviewed here in The New York Times.
In Act 2 of The Book of Mormon, the bumbling but well-meaning young missionary Elder Cunningham (Christopher John O’Neill) prepares to baptize a young Ugandan woman, Nabulungi (Samantha Marie Ware), in a duet and dance that couldn’t more salaciously invoke a different sort of first-time experience. The two slip behind a curtain, and the silhouette of him slowly bending her backwards and lowering her to the water is lights-out funny.
The Tony Award-wining musical is sacrilegious throughout and yet somehow leaves some historical Mormon tenets surprisingly untouched, including polygamy. But while there are limits to the blasphemy, there are no boundaries on language, and a couple of songs, in spite of their joyous tone, could make some sailors — and more sensitive critics — blush.
Given that the satirical musical comes from Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park, and Robert Lopez, lyricist of the grown-up Sesame Street parody musical Avenue Q (with the song “The Internet is for Porn”), it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the work is outrageous in almost every imaginable way. But they crafted a show meant for a wide audience on Broadway, and the tone is as upbeat as the language is crass. It’s the contrast that makes some of the crudest declarations so funny.
Just where is the line? At what point in the overwhelming coarsening of our culture do we finally say, “Enough”?
The lyrics to one key song, which also cannot be quoted here, were so horribly offensive, that I was tempted to walk out with the large handful of others at intermission.
“The Book of Mormon” runs through Oct. 27. American culture, meanwhile, continues slouching toward the abyss.
When a rare and valuable stamp collection is left to a grieving young woman, everyone around her sheds their sympathies and maneuvers to take it off her hands in Mauritius, running at the Mid-City Theatre.
Tension between estranged half sisters Jackie (Leslie Boles) and Mary (Andrea Carlin) is palpable from the start. Upon their mother’s death, Jackie, the brooding younger sibling, is left with unpaid medical bills and a stamp collection. Mary, who has been away for years, believes the stamps are rightfully hers, but she does not feel obliged to share any of the financial burden. The show’s emotional tension comes from the relationship between the sisters. In an intense and well-acted scene, Jackie goes from inconsolable crying over feelings of abandonment to throttling Mary. They fight about money and old wounds, and both seem bereft of love and understanding.
Jackie takes the stamp collection to Phillip (James Howard Wright), a gruff man who is knowledgeable about stamps but neither compassionate nor diplomatic. Initially, Phillip wants nothing to do with the stamps, claiming he’s tired of appraising peoples’ “treasures.” Dennis (Joe Seibert), who for an unexplained reason hangs out in Phillip’s shop, looks at the collection and spots rare stamps from Mauritius.
Though Broadway's bright light Kristin Chenoweth tried to steal the show at the grand opening of the Saenger Theatre Saturday - and with her enormous voice and crackling jokes, she certainly could have - the real star of the gala was the building that contained it.
The seats were nearly full for the opening gala, which celebrated the $5.2 million restoration that brought the theater back after Hurricane Katrina and the levee failure of 2005. Though a soft opening invited Comedian Jerry Seinfeld to the newly refurbished stage at the end of September, Chenoweth reigned over the grand opening with a set of show tunes, both new and old, that audiences could have sung along to if they'd wanted (and many did). It was a set perfectly timed invoke nostalgia, with songs like "Que Sera Sera," and "Feed the Birds." Many were back in the Saenger for the first time since the storm, delighted by its plush seats, stellar acoustics and cloudy, twinkling sky.
Casey Dietz, who came to shows at the Saenger as a kid, said she was impressed by how crisp the old venue looked. "I hoped it would look this good," she said. William Sonner and Michael Gallaugher were also in the building pre-Katrina, and neither could believe how well the renovation turned out. "It didn't disappoint," said Gallaugher.
Chenoweth is a national act, but she was remarkably deft at appropriating her show to a local audience. She name-dropped local venues, like the bar Oz, and she ended the show wearing the number 37 Saints jersey of Steve Gleason, who was also in the audience. She fought on stage with a puppet claiming to be the queen of carnival and she repeatedly applauded the rebuilding efforts that reconstructed the Saenger and the city as a whole.
A series of almost embarrassingly sincere moments took hold of Chenoweth's second act. First, just before performing the song "Popular," which the former Glenda the Good Witch sang in English, Japanese and German, Chenoweth invited two fans on stage. The entire audience watched as a man in tears got down on one knee and proposed to his longtime partner (who said yes). Next, Chenoweth called out for a duet partner for the song "For Good," also from Wicked. That honor was granted to the 14-year-old Brogan Hausknecht, a student at St. Mary's Dominican High School.
Chenoweth declared that she had not only fallen in love with the City of New Orleans, but also the mayor of New Orleans, though "not in a naughty way." In a surprise grand finale, Mayor Mitch Landrieu took the stage, accompanied by the Tony award winner Michael Cerveris, to sing the Epilogue from the musical Les Miserable. Landrieu held his own in a short solo, before being joined by the Delgado Community College Choir, the Gay Men's Choir and the Symphony Chorus of New Orleans.
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