Singer actor Michael Buchanan made a welcome and long-missed return to New York nightclub stages after a thirteen-year absence, when he and longtime best friend Todd Buonopane performed The Green Room 42 on Sunday. evening with SONGS That MADE US GAY. Chances are there’s no one out there who’s seen Michael Hull’s brilliant artwork for this musical cabaret, read the names of Michael Buchanan and Todd Buonopane next to the Songs That Made title Us Gay and thought, “Michael and Todd are gay?” Like the moment in A League of Their Own where Rosie O’Donnell says, “Do you think there are men in this country who haven’t seen your breasts?” a person would have to be completely and utterly unaware of the hurricane and tornado that is Buonopane and Buchanan not to know that they are two of the entertainment industry’s biggest advocates for living Out, Loud and Proud. Mr. Buonopane (who, thankfully, spends more time on nightclub stages than his best friend) has built entire comedy numbers around his life as a gay man, while the jetski wedding entrance on Mr. Buchanan’s unicorn theme with companion Jason Gilbert made national news. These Boyz are a living testament to the remarkable changes the world has seen in gay rights and visibility, as well as the power to live an authentic life.
Is it any wonder that their nightclub act is as gay and authentic as them?
For their sold-out performance (SOLD. OUT. #bighint #encore #runofshows), Misters Buchanan and Buonopane presented eighty minutes of music, comedy, camping and LGBTQIA+ performance in an ongoing discussion… monologue …comedy skit…parade float…well, all of the above is informed by their mutual lives as small gay boys, bullied gay teenagers, and eventually men who controlled their own narrative . To ensure they were completely true to themselves, there was an abundance of Broadway (for Todd), a plethora of pop (for Michael) and a soup of sincerity (seriousness was not at the top of their priority list for the program) . As Michael and Todd camped out, fooled around, and showered each other with affection that very clearly had been going on for decades, the evening felt like a mad dash, a sprint, a race to the finish, with only occasional breaks to chat, like Michael’s moving tribute to his mother, Becky Buchanan, beaming from the front row, or the two gentlemen taking a few minutes to discuss the heinous shooting in Colorado and the importance of staying strong and committed to staying alive and staying strong within the community and the community of the world. And even as outrageous and ridiculous as handsome boys are, it was never wrong. It was never shy. It was never anything but authentic because that’s clearly what Todd Buonopane and Michael Buchanan are: gorgeous gay people who carve out lives and careers and build friendships and family. It was uplifting. It was rewarding. And it was fun.
As for the program itself, both men are accomplished singers who have chosen material that not only suits their styles and aesthetics, but tells their story. Michael Buchanan may be one of the best boy singers in the business, able to sing a Broadway show tune with the best of them, but his interests have always leaned on pop divas like Paula Abdul and Tori Amos, while Buonopane, who has described the obsessive nature of his relationships with Liza Minnelli and Bernadette Peters, is proud to be a Broadway babe – hence Michael Hull’s card-inspired showmanship. -THE RINK window. And speaking of The Rink, while every number performed excelled (particularly Todd’s Bernadette Peters Medley and Chess’ Michael number), the indisputable highlight of the evening was the famous duet “Apple Doesn’t Fall” from the iconic musical that earned Chita Rivera her first Tony Award. It was comically hilarious, harmonically awe-inspiring, and personally adorable to see these two pals go all out Julie and Carol with a larger-than-life duet of this nature. The other highlight of the night was when they dialed it in for a moment of charming introspection and utter tenderness with the upbeat “Rainbow Connection” sung softer than ever since Kermit sang it for the first time, a long time ago. Love and affection were in the room, for all to see and appreciate, and we did.
SONGS THAT MADE US GAY is a good cabaret play, and if the duo wants to take it back for other performances, it would be nice to see them hire a director, just for a few touch-ups. Michael and Todd are credited as co-writers and co-directors of the play, and right now it needs to be tightened up a bit. The actors rehearsed the production within an inch of its life, and they should, because there are complex comedy bits that require a lot of time, and they do all of those bits extremely well, as well as all of their singing. However, with so many bits of comedy, with so much quick verbiage, an extra pair of eyes sitting around the house would be beneficial – someone to say things like “It’s getting lost” and “Take your time there” and (very important) “Take all the comedy out of it and be sincere, here.” There’s structure to a good cabaret play, just like there’s structure to a good theater play, and it’s important to give the audience breaks from the heightened theatrics, it’s important to let them in, to let him see you, but those moments have to be timed just as properly as the comedy bits. Songs That Made Us Gay is, indeed, a good musical cabaret show… but it can be great. A director who understands structure, as well as rise and fall, ebb and flow, light and shadow will help this burgeoning vaudeville act land on any stage in the industry that he wishes to play, which he could do. What a director won’t have to do with Todd and Michael is instill in them the need to learn their lyrics, because these boys are professional musical theater actors and they’ve come out on stage with every last word stored. No music stand. No lyric sheets. No tablets or devices. Buchanan and Buonopane knew every word, note, and beat of their show, by heart, and, in these sad times when so many people rely on a prompter, that holds true with this writer. Cheer.
It’s a wonderful thing that Michael Buchanan and Todd Buonopane have done, bringing this show they tried out in Provincetown to the city. In P-Town, there was some guarantee that the show would go well – it’s an LGBT resort, and they’re two attractive men with plenty of LGB-To supply. In Manhattan, there’s a large queer community, but there’s also the general public to consider, and when it comes to ticket sales, every demographic needs to be considered. Songs That Made Us Gay is a musical comedy cabaret, not just a gay musical comedy cabaret – it’s touching, it’s honest, it’s funny and it’s steeped in good music and proper musical performances. It’s a show anyone can enjoy, and it’s a show this writer recommends for club bookers to watch and members of the public to go to because Buchanan and Buonopane deserve the time and attention.
The group Songs That Made Us Gay is
Mark Galinivsky Musical direction and keyboards
Eric Wharton on bass
Chris McWilliams on drums
Kevin David Thomas provided some arrangements (Opening Medley, Bernadette Peters Medley, Miserable Ladies of the 80s)
Find the shows to see on the Green Room 42 website HERE.
HERE is Michael Buchanan’s Instagram and HERE is Todd Buonopane’s website.