Don’t be perplexed by the elegant dame taking the stage of Feinstein’s at the Nikko this week for Charles Busch’s one-man cabaret. The lady in question – to crib one of the playwright-performer’s own titles – is indeed Charles Busch. Or at least one of the more glamorously sparkly facets of this multi-talented artist.
“It’s an odd act,” he says with a laugh, “but it seems to be really working well. I could sort of do it out of drag, but I think that after so many decades I’m actually better when I’m in drag. It kind of loosens me up and gets my imagination going a bit more.“
Part of the fun will be classic American Songbook selections and Busch gets his back up from accompanist Tom Judson. “It certainly adds gravitas to the act having a former porn star as your accompanist, doesn’t it? It’s like what they used to say about Astaire and Rogers, he gives me sex appeal and I give him class. It’s curious but sometimes drag performers can be oddly de-sexed on stage. We’ve got a good chemistry.”
Busch made his San Francisco debut back in the 1980s in boy clothes. “My dream for a long time had been to come to San Francisco. I had read the first couple of ‘Tales of the City’ books and it just all seemed so romantic. It’s where I really got my first taste of any kind of real encouragement that I was doing something right.”
It was a very different act then. “I was a performance artist dressed very simply in black shirt and pants and I was doing these rather elaborate solo pieces. They weren’t exactly monologues. They were kind of solo plays where I played all the characters, male and female, and told all these rather complicated narratives with these characters.”
Though the productions became more populated, the narratives remained adventurous. He’s been the darling of Off-Broadway (and regional theater) with titles like “Vampire Lesbians of Sodom,” “Red Scare on Sunset,” “The Lady in Question” and “The Divine Sister.” He’s also scored on Broadway with his Tony-nominated “The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife” and the book to the Boy George musical “Taboo.”
In addition to the Nikko engagement, Busch’s fan’s can also enjoy the upcoming production of his play “Die! Mommie, Die!” which opens Oct. 3 at New Conservatory Theatre Center. “I’m very happy just from the photos I’ve seen of Katya [Smirnoff-Skyy],” he says referring to actor J. Conrad Frank, who will be playing the role Busch originated. “It’s like we’re cut from the same line.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Feinstein’s at the Nikko, 220 Mason St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Friday
Tickets: $35 to $50</p>
Contact: (866) 663-1063, www.ticketweb.com