Club Review: Leanne Borghesi in “Borghesi’s Back!”

June 28, 2021 | By | Add a Comment

Leanne Borghesi’s first major outing since the pandemic, Borghesi’s Back!,  landed at Don’t Tell Mama with a big bang and a million belly laughs. This mostly fictitious pandemic memoir/travelogue still allows Borghesi to bare her heart (in character) about missing and loving what she was obviously born to do. She had a busy 2020 planned, with engagements booked around the country, and we all know what happened to those.

Leanne Borghesi in Borghesi’s Back.

The premise has a raven-wigged floozie version of Borghesi having to suddenly blow out of town just as she was just on the verge of a long string of engagements in The Biggest Little City in the World (Reno, Nevada). Then, soon learning all performing spaces had been shut down, she roams the country in her newly purchased (though not new) Winnebago, looking for audiences to entertain. She travels almost 2,897 miles with stops at, among others, a nudist colony, national parks, including the Petrified Forest. At the KOA circuit of campgrounds, she establishes Borghesi’s Socially-Distant Koa Campground Cabaret.

This is a hilarious, well-constructed comedy show with music from a performer who excels at both. The energetic and plentiful dialogue seems to spring from Borghesi spontaneously, and of course that’s one of her bountiful gifts. She works with a single musician, her pianist and occasional singing partner, Brandon Adams, and he deftly assists her in lighting the stage on fire.

After a very funny opening dialogue from offstage, Borghesi enters to sing Together in One Place, an original song written for her by composer Dana P. Rowe and lyricist Nathan Cann, and I’m sure you can guess what it’s about. You can also watch the original music video Borghesi created of this song during lockdown here.

The comedic build up to her second number, Nobody Does It Like Me (Coleman/Fields), is substantial. We learn why Borghesi’s character had to leave town so suddenly, forsaking her gigs – it involves someone who is a recurring character in Borghesi’s shows and a “whole lot of trouble” in her life. This is broad comedy, no pun intended.

The set carries on with a lovely series of songs, some known and some less known, including the double-entendre chestnut, A Lovely Bunch of Coconuts (Fred Haetherton) and Hanky Panky (Patrick Leonard, Madonna) from the film Dick Tracy. Borghesi uses props, including a boa, pasties, a tape measure (for social distancing, of course) a steering wheel, and she even executes an impressive bit of fan work, as well. Having worked in Reno, myself, I know good fan work when I see it.

Make no mistake, this is a comedy show, and it’s rare that the performer sings a song in its entirety. When a voice as beautiful as Borghesi’s is showcased, it’s natural to want to hear more of it, but it’s not that kind of a show. The ethereal Moonraker (Hal David, John Barry), from the eleventh James Bond film of the same name, is one place where the voice alone is left to shine. It’s a very touching moment, too, as she is singing about the unknown present and future. One can picture Borghesi’s character out under the stars somewhere with her fellow vagabonds, where she’s begun to feel community. She hits another couple of poignant moments beautifully with On the Road Again (Willie Nelson), when her situation becomes clearer to her, and Another Autumn (Alan Jay Lerner, Frederick Loewe), as her character’s journey is slowly winding down.

Leanne Borghesi is a treasure. They’re not making too many like her anymore. She was joined for an encore by the fabulous Marta Sanders with whom she performed another winning show in 2020, SHOWBROADS—A Nightclub Duel.

If all this sounds a bit complicated, don’t take that too seriously. The rapid-fire stories and jokes will have you rolling in the crowded aisles at Don’t Tell Mama.

Leanne Borghesi’s Borghesi’s Back! performs again at Don’t Tell Mama on July 23 & 26.

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Though now Betsyann Faiella is known in New York primarily as a publicist, she came to that profession from two previous careers that contributed to her love of promoting creative people: as a working singer and as a media producer. She made her cabaret debut at the legendary Reno Sweeney. She was the lead singer in a band with Lewis Friedman, the impresario of both Reno Sweeney and s.n.a.f.u. Later she performed in such other iconic venues as Birdland, Blue Note, the Jazz Bakery in Los Angeles, and Ronnie Scott's in London. She appeared in concert with jazz legends Hank Jones and Paul Smith and performed at arts centers and universities around the country.

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