Busted: The Musical
nytheatre.com review by Ed Malin
October 3, 2011
In 1980s New York, one transsexual dominatrix has seen it all. And yet she’s anything but afraid of those who put her down. “They see that I’m a woman, and wonder what they could have become if they’d tried.” Bianca Leigh struts and sings her way through Busted: The Musical, the one-woman show she penned, which features the songwriting talents of Jeff Whitty, Taylor Mac, William TN Hall, and more.
The road to feminine empowerment takes many turns. An early gig is dancing for a crowd of often masturbating men (which inspires the song “Broadway Shooting Star”). Next comes a junior dominatrix job at the legendary Hellfire Club. As is noted, it paid for the hormones and the breasts. It is a life of elegance and self-confidence. That is, until the stock market crash of October, 1987, which interferes with business a bit. This is not prostitution. There is no sex involved (as explained in the hilarious song “My Lost Vagina”), and there is a great deal of respect for the ladies. Until that one day, when undercover cops set up our heroine and put her in jail. First, she must wait for 36 hours in the cell with the uncouth biological males. Fellow transsexuals teach some good lessons about being tough, and tell dubious stories about how putting clear nail polish on your fingers will help you shoplift better. Any longer and she may lose her day job at Macy’s, which provides health benefits. At her hearing, she admits she can’t make her next court date because that day is The White Sale. The Judge, who is promised a discount on Egyptian cotton sheets, shows leniency.
Bianca Leigh is a powerful singer, whose loyal followers packed the Laurie Beechman Theatre when I saw the show. Sequins and hip thrusts abound (especially in the song “Work Him”), and Bianca occasionally goes into the audience. Some of the humor is unprintable, but I can tell you that it adds up to a universal human story which deserves all the laughs it gets. Arthur Oliver’s costume work is just charming. Director Tim Cusack continues Theater Askew’s mission to promote queer theater with another amazing show. Cusack and Leigh have worked together several times before, and I hope they continue to do so. Musical director TN Hall accompanies Leigh on piano throughout the show, showing himself to be as versatile on the tango as on—unbelievably—a Tunnel-style house riff.