Whether he’s Mad Men’s fabulous gay advertising exec Salvatore Romano or Beauty and the Beast’s singing, dancing candle, Bryan Batt always wins over his audience. Best known to theater fans for his performances in Jeffrey, La Cage aux Folles, Saturday Night Fever, Sunset Boulevard and Forbidden Broadway, Batt returns to the stage on January 14 with the hilarious one-night-only concert Batt On a Hot Tin Roof at 54 Below. Read on to hear why Batt thinks actors should study Bette Midler, why Betty Buckley needs to join him at 54 Below and how he makes the room laugh at auditions.
What record/album was your favorite growing up?
My favorite song as a boy was definitely “Downtown” recorded by Petula Clark. I still love it! And the original cast recording of Gypsy; I played my mother's cast recordings until there was no vinyl left.
What concert most influenced you as a performer?
Any of Bette Midler's concerts should be required viewing for every actor/performer. She has the audience in the palm of her hands at all times and can switch emotions on a dime: Great singer, great actress, great comedian—fearless. Also when I was 16, my mom took me to see Liza, and I was blown away; I’ve never been the same since.
What is your go-to audition song?
I changed the lyrics of "All I need is the girl" to "All I need is the job" for an audition years ago. It’s a great ice-breaker—people want to laugh.
What song are you most excited to perform in your show?
I do love them all, but today I'm excited about the Burt Bacharach songs that I do back to back..."Wives and Lovers" which goes into "This Guy’s in Love With You.” Tomorrow it could be "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans” or “New York State of Mind.”
What musical theater track is the most played on your iPod?
The Hair revival and Ragtime.
If you could invite any performer onstage for a duet at 54 Below, who would it be?
A few years ago, I was walking on Madison Avenue at twilight and bumped in to Betty [Buckley]. I had been out of the city for a while filming Mad Men, and helping with our gift and home furnishings shop [Hazelnut] in New Orleans. Anyway, we did Sunset Boulevard on Broadway together and bonded when I went on in the role of Joe Gillis. She was playing at Feinstein's, and graciously asked if I would come that night and do the duet with her from Sunset. I said of course, went home, studied the lyrics and music, ordered some Chinese food, and when I bit into a chicken wing, my front tooth veneer popped off. Needless to say, I looked like an extra from Deliverance, and had to cancel...so I'd have to say I'd like to invite my buddy Betty, and return her beautiful invitation.
What musical theater performer from the past do you wish you could collaborate with?
I loved sharing the stage with Laurie Beechman. She was an amazing performer, person and friend. We always had fun together, so I bet something fun would come out of a collaboration. We all miss her.
What album was the soundtrack to your 20s?
Elvis Costello and Broadway cast recordings. I was into theater and in a new wave band—I know, odd combo.
What’s your favorite love song?
“Night and Day.”
What song makes you feel sexy?
"Got to Give It UP" by Marvin Gaye.
What is your favorite workout track?
I watch the TV or learn scripts while on the elliptical—need to get back on it!
What’s the best hidden gem in on your iPod?
The soundtrack to Love Actually.
Favorite break-up song?
I don't do break-ups, but if I did: "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do.”
What song most makes you smile?
“You’ve Got a Friend.”
When this song plays, I can’t help but dance:
"Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen. If you've not heard it lately, give it a try!
Check out Bryant Batt in Batt On a Hot Tin Roof at 54 Below on January 14. Get a look at a previous incarnation of Batt’s show below.