BATT ON A HOT TIN ROOF
Festival Theatre Stage
Wed June 22
As I have mentioned elsewhere, one of the great things about this festival is the creative use of spaces around the Festival Theatre and the main stage in the Theatre itself is my favourite. The excitement of entering the main theatre and walking up the stairs, behind the red velvet curtain to the stage is all a bit Narnia. Behind the curtain is a large cabaret venue with tables and chairs with a stage that is situated effectively with its back to the audience of the stage proper.
The room is dimly lit and a pianist takes to the grand piano. A brief announcement and out strides BRYAN BATT. As sharply dressed as he ever was on MAD MEN, he is met warmly by the sell-out audience.
“It so great to be back in my home town of Adelaide for the first time.” He quips and starts Home Is Where the Heart Is. He has a fantastic voice and carries himself like the Broadway star he actually is. He tackles The City of New Orleans (made famous by Arlo Guthrie at Woodstock) with great style. It’s a song about his home town and he clearly still enamoured New Orleans.
“If there’s one thing I have learnt about cabaret is that you need to do a love song.”
Before singing beautifully about having met a girl, who eyes are perfect and whose kisses are perfect before hitting the chorus.
“That’s why I’m dumpin’ you BITCH” taking the entire room off guard with its pseudo r’n’b attitude and progressively more aggressive and outrageous tone. Each chorus gets a more ludicrous BEE-YATCH. It’s comic and perfectly played.
Decorum is restored with a wonderful version of Night & Day by Cole Porter. Between songs he tells great stories about growing up ‘theatrical’ in New Orleans with his Southern Belle mother and his baseball fan dad. And the music jumps from show tunes to Bacharach, Billy Joel and Petula Clarke. A trio of Downtown, Wives & Lovers and This Guys in love With You (all Mad Men era classics) is a highpoint. When he is crooning Broadway classics and belting out those huge closing notes it is spine-tingling.
My favourite thing those is Batt’s comedy skills. His timing is excellent and he tells a great story. Many alluding to his early ‘flamboyance’ and this is spotlighted with a fantastic song called Ahead of My Time.
Today’s the day your son becomes a man papa
Today he claims a mate and joins the clan papa
Or that’s what you’d expect, from any son who walks erect
Well I’m sorry but I’ve got a different plan papa
I’m not like the other cavemen
Mother Nature gave men a brain
But for most of them it’s all in vain
They got no reason or rhyme
Undeniably I’m way ahead of my time
With a spear in hand I fear I’m ineffectual
But I might just be the world’s first homo-sapien, who’s an intellectual
It’s unashamedly camp and hysterically funny. It’s ragtime tempo and some fantastically amusing dancing from Bryan is excellent. As is the story he tells of his first ever trip to Broadway at age 12. He was allowed to pick one show to see with is mother and grandmother. He picked Gilda Radner from Saturday Night Live. She had opened with a very rude song called Lets Talk Dirty to The Animals, which Batt proceeds to romp through causing whoops and howls from the audience.
There are some more reflective moments. A song he dedicated to the victims of the floods in both New Orleans and Queensland ‘Things That Float, is moving and his version of Billy Joel’s New York State of Mind is wonderful.
He shares a very funny letter from his number one fan Jessica, before closing with the gay anthem made famous by disco diva Gloria Gaynor, I Am What I Am. Batt’s version is miles away from the disco but it a grand end to the set. The thunderous applause brings him back to the stage for stunning song Infinite Joy by William Finn.
Bryan Batt is exactly the sort of act we should be seeing in a Cabaret Festival.
Home is Where the Heart Is
Good Morning America ‘How Are You’
I’m Dumpin’ you bitch
Night and Day
Wives & Lovers
This Guy's in Love With You
Damn Yankees (dream)
Sun Shines Like Diamonds
Talk Dirty With the Animals (Gilda Radner)
I’m Becoming My Mother
Ahead of My Time
The Things that Float
Miss New Orleans
New York State of Mind
Jessica (the fan letter)
I Am What I Am
Life Has Infinite Joy