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After a stint at the Crazy Coqs last August, the Batt is back. No, not Christian Bale in another Christopher Nolan instalment of rubber-clad and gruff-voiced comic book histrionics but Bryan Batt, known to some as Mad Men’s Sal Romano and, judging from his latest performance at the Crazy Coqs, now known by many more as a born entertainer and cabaret singer.
This is a night that’s all about Bryan, something that’s impossible not to realise as soon as his charming yet impressively slick Broadway patter kicks off the show. Although never once actually personally engaging with any individual members of the audience, somehow Bryan’s likeable charisma and enthusiasm means that you’re often drawn into his stories anyway, whether it’s the time he sat on the hospital bed with his dying father and finally bonded over a fuzzy TV showing baseball musical Damn Yankees, or the tale of an obsessed fan who went mad when they found out that Bryan wasn’t performing as advertised in a play and went to great lengths to ensure they met him in the future. Although clearly spotlessly rehearsed and polished to a tee, it’s this charisma that keeps the night from seeming sterile and over-produced while still being heaps of fun.
And Batt is clearly having a lot of fun himself. The night is a hotchpotch of his two obvious loves – the deep south of New Orleans and the Broadway razzmatazz of New York – and, even though his one man act was devised after Batt was asked to create a benefit for the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, there’s a lot of lightness and laughter alongside the ballads touching on these more serious issues too. Through a wide smile and sparkling teeth Batt sings a hilarious ode to a woman of dubious sexual morals (not quite how he puts it), before flipping to a rip-roaring rendition of Petula Clark’s Downtown then launching into an earnest and naïvely acted version of Burt Bacharach’s This Guy’s In Love With You. You can tell Batt is just waiting to leap back into some mischief every time he waltzes over to the mic after swigging a quick drink – the Crazy Coqs is a perfectly intimate setting for his kind of personal anecdotes peppered with quickfire gags and quirky yet somehow still heartfelt numbers.
As Bryan himself puts it, some of the songs have nothing to do with anything else in the set list at all – he just happens to like them – and it’s this kind of happy go lucky charm that runs throughout the night. The gags can be a little cheesy and the over expressive gestures more than a little reminiscent of the kind of “jazz hands” choreography last seen in an episode of Glee, but somehow it doesn’t really matter. With Batt at the helm, it’s difficult not to have the kind of toe-tapping, simple, goofy grinning night that Mad Men’s complicated Don Draper and friends can only dream of.