Barry, Babs and Busch

I was in NYC to see Charles Busch and his troupe perform their annual Times Square Angel.  And, like all good theatre, it only started 6 minutes late.  For the past 24 years, this semi-staged epic has brought out faithful fans of Busch and his motley crew.  The play is kinda like a cross between It’s a Wonderful Life and I Want To Live and is based on an idea by Busch and Andy Halliday.  That the talented Halliday flew in from his new home in Palm Springs shows the devotion of the cast and the audience – many of whom come back year after year.  This one-night-only event sells out in a matter of minutes, and I made it my mission to finally attend.  I’m so glad I did.


While I was in the Big Apple, I checked out the Broadway musical Harmony.  The story of six talented men singing their way through Weimar Germany is ripe for theatricality.  It’s also a story that has universality.  The Comedian Harmonists were basically a boy band.  The sextet was put together by someone who took out an ad in the paper looking for hot young men who could sing – and you thought Lou Pearlman came up with that on his own (that Backstreet Boys first hit in Germany is no coincidence).  Kudos to the outstanding cast…to single out any of them would be ungallant.  Alas, the culprit of the night was not the Nazis; it was Bruce Sussman, who wrote the book.  This story is clumsily told through a hodgepodge of badly conceived scenes that only hint at what is probably a fascinating story.  Musically, it’s impossible to judge Barry Manilow’s score, which is presented in truly awful orchestrations.  I know it takes place in Germany, but less timpani and tuba, please.  Amidst the cacophony, there are striking harmonies and some lovely moments.  Young Rabbi has a song that would make a terrific 11 o’clock number.  Alas, it happens 20 minutes in.  Instead, the show culminates with poor Chip Zien’s overwrought mad scene, which drew more titters than tears.  However, I was intrigued enough to look up the group’s history, so there’s a silver lining.  And, as I always say, it’s hard to dislike any show where someone is wearing a monocle!


Manilow gets a second mention in this column due to a revelation he made to Kelly Clarkson.  Back in his early days, Playboy played a pivotal part in his career.  “I was a desperate young guy.  I didn’t know what to do with my musical life.  So I saw this thing in Playboy magazine.  My stepfather used to buy it, I think.  So I wrote to them saying, ‘I have an offer to go on the road with a girl singer.  In order to do that, I needed to leave my job at CBS as the mailboy.  Which one should I do?’  And they wrote back and they printed it.  They said take the job outside and follow your musical notes.  And I did it.  I left CBS.”


It was just announced that Barbra Streisand will be given the SAG Life Achievement Award at the 2024 Screen Actors Guild Awards.  And certainly she deserves it.  But, you know, it’s not exactly the same as winning an award in competition.  This is something being “bestowed” onto her.  To the best of my knowledge, Streisand has never actually won a SAG Award, and this honorary stuff doesn’t really fly with me.  Like that Tony Award for “Star of the Millennium” or whatever they called it.  It’s not a real Tony.  It’s a “Let’s give Streisand a reason to show up on our telecast” award.  You know what an EGOT is without a Tony?  It’s just EGO.

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