Bryan Batt

Slide, June 30

Batt resWhen Bryan Batt last brought his Batt On A Hot Tin Roof cabaret show here the seasons of the ITAL Mad Men ITAL series in which his character Sal Romano appeared were recent history. Although his involvement in that primary source of his notoriety has slipped deeper into the past, you still felt the room tighten when he told any anecdote relating to it. Some television shows generate something closer to obsession than affection.

Much of Sal’s charm is native to Batt. He radiated warmth when speaking of the high school drama teacher who corralled him into a play and thereby began his career, and who was the first to congratulate him on his deft Mad Men performance.

He was also effortlessly amusing. Unlike his southern-belle, arts-loving mama his scotch-and-football father was slow to pick up on Batt’s sexual orientation. When he suggested his son take up baseball, Batt pointed to his feet. “Dad,” he said, “see these shoes? They’re taps!”

The show’s song content has changed little in three years, and, as before, Batt wobbled on the high-wire beneath which lay the chasm of melodrama. His ballad-tempo version of Night And Day exemplified this, and yet, even when he did plunge into the abyss, there was a sense of a safety net miraculously appearing in the form of the theatricality being true to the man. Much the same happened with This Guy’s In Love With You.

His best work came on Maury Yeston’s In a Very Unusual Way, where he let the emotive force build more organically, so it could sustain its own weight. Another highlight was Peter Mills’ It’s Amazing The Things That Float, with its relevance to post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans, Batt’s home town.

The overall quality was similar three years later, too. Although Batt’s light voice was engaging rather than compelling, the actor in him could certainly illuminate a lyric, and in pianist Cameron Thomas he had an able collaborator.