Palm Beach Dramaworks opens its new [email protected] series on Saturday, Sept. 16 with an evening of cabaret featuring legendary playwright, actor and drag performer Charles Busch.
Busch wrote and starred in “The Divine Sister,” “Vampire Lesbians of Sodom” and “The Tribute Artist.” His play, “The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife” ran for nearly two years on Broadway and received a Tony nomination.
He wrote and starred in the film versions of “Psycho Beach Party” and “Die Mommie Die.” In 2003, Mr. Busch received a special Drama Desk Award for career achievement as both performer and playwright. He is also the subject of the acclaimed documentary film, “The Lady in Question is Charles Busch.”
Busch is a two-time MAC Award winner and has performed his cabaret act in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, New Orleans, Atlanta, Philadelphia, London, Paris, and New York. In the winter of 2016, his show, “The Lady at the Mic,” premiered at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series, and his first CD, “Charles Busch Live at Feinstein’s 54 Below,” was released by Broadway Records.
“I’ve always wanted to play Palm Beach,” Busch said in a phone interview from his New York apartment. “I’ve been to Coral Springs and South Beach, so I’m making my way around there.”
Busch created a new show for the Palm Beach Dramaworks audiences, collaborating once again with longtime musical director Tom Judson.
“I’ve dabbled over the years in cabaret at different points,” he explained. “As I’ve grown, what I love about the whole cabaret experience for a performer is that you can be really close to who you are, to be as honest as possible.”
Busch plans to sing a wide array of musical songs from Kurt Weill and Stephen Sondheim to Bob Dylan and the Beatles, with plenty of stories peppered throughout.
His approach has definitely matured over the years.
“When I did cabaret a bit in the early ‘90s, I just felt that my audience wanted to see me be campy and funny and, maybe perhaps, I could get away with one serious song,” he explained “The way it’s developed now, I sing a lot of serious songs. I come to the experience as an actor and a storyteller. It’s been a marvelous journey throwing myself into the drama of the show.”
That said, Busch made one promise to the audience: “It’s not all dour and you’re not going to feel like slashing your wrists.”
While Busch has been successful and largely created his own roles throughout a long career, he admits life in show business is not always easy, full of ups and downs. Interest in the new cabaret show has “been a wonderful thing to boost your spirit when you’re a veteran performer. I had always dreamed of touring in one of my plays, but it was never economically feasible, so this is the first time I’m truly out on the road.”
The [email protected] series continues on Dec. 15 with the world premiere of Terry Teachout’s “Billy and Me,” the story of the fraught relationship between playwrights William Inge and Tennessee Williams. Teachout is the drama critic for the Wall Street Journal.
Palm Beach Dramaworks presents “An Evening with Charles Busch” on Saturday, Sept. 16 at 8 p.m. at the Don & Ann Brown Theatre, 201 Clematis St. in West Palm Beach. Tickets are $75 at PalmBeachDramaworks.org.