Venue: Festival Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, King William Road, Adelaide
Season: Season ended
Duration: 60 mins
I seldom watch television, and even less often a commercial station, and so I have never seen Mad Men, a series in which Bryan Batt appears, and so it was not that that drove me to see this production. Before this television programme Batt appeared on Broadway, and that stage of his career was what interested me. No doubt, however, his television career drew a good percentage of the audience. Whatever brought us all together, we all saw the same great performance, and it was that that had everybody talking in glowing terms afterwards.
Opening with Kander and Ebb’s Home he spoke of his two homes, New York and New Orleans, and this led into Steve Goodman’s song, popularised by Arlo Guthrie, City of New Orleans. Announcing that in cabaret there is a format, and that the third song always has to be a love song, he presented Sensitive Song, from Cops: The Musical and, as he got to the part where the whole thing changes, he brought the house down with laughter. To make up for it he then gave a genuinely sensitive rendition of Cole Porter’s Night and Day. He was well assisted throughout by Michael Levine on piano.
We were told about his parents, his mother, a Southern Belle with interests in all things cultural, and his father, a sports oriented man. Batt joked, asking “guess who I clicked with?”, answering, in a high voice “skirt girl”. His narrative led him to sing Tony Hatch’s Downtown, made famous by Petula Clark. Speaking of the 1960s he mentioned Mad Men and that raised a big cheers. Burt Bacharach’s Wives and Lovers had feet tapping again, before he slipped into This Guy’s in Love With You. He explained that his mother liked Cole Porter and his father Liked Burt Bacharach, and told of his father’s ill-fated attempts to make a man of him. His very personable way of speaking to an audience and the humour in his anecdotes kept the audience laughing, although there were many poignant moments, too. His father’s attempt to get him to play baseball led into What You’d Call a Dream from Diamonds.
He was taken to see comedienne Gilda Radner as his first trip to Broadway, and her opening song was Let’s Talk Dirty to the Animals. He expected to be dragged out of the theatre, but his mother and grandmother were laughing their heads off. I’m Becoming My Mother, by Valerie lemon, was given a new twist, being sung by a man. Way Ahead of My Time (aka The Caveman Song) then had the audience in fits of laughter again. Pete Mills, who wrote it, also wrote the song that followed quickly after, the sadly moving It’s Amazing the Things That Float from The Flood. He then gave a powerful rendition of Do you Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans? and Billy Joel’s New York State of Mind, referencing the two cities that he calls home.
He then read out a fan letter that had the audience in stitches once again. Finally, From La Cage Aux Folles, in which he appeared, he sang I Am What I Am. For his late mother he then sang Infinite Joys, from William Finn’s Elegies to close the performance.
Batt’s humorous tales and quips, the wide range of songs, including some hilariously funny ones, ballads and the standards, added up to a marvellous production that had loads of pace, energy and enthusiasm. This was certainly one of the highlights of the Cabaret Festival this year.
Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor, Glam Adelaide.