Billy Porter’s career may have received a fillip from winning the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his turn as Lola in Kinky Boots (a pattern interestingly repeated by Matt Henry at the Oliviers this year) but he is a performer who has certainly paid his dues. From his 1994 debut in Grease, he’s carved out as a path as an almost old-school multi-disciplinary entertainer – appearing on film and TV as well as on stage, writing plays and music…boy’s been keeping busy.
Billy’s Back On Broadway marks his third album and proves an interesting blend of everything that makes up Billy. The songlist is pure Broadway as the title suggests but the approach from Porter and producer Rob Mounsey is much more varied, bringing in elements both of the jazz and the more contemporary R&B he loves. Combined with idiosyncratic takes on some of these classics, it makes for an always interesting collection.
Kander and Ebb’s vibrant ‘But The World Goes ‘Round’ is a strong opener but eyes are really opened with a version of Gypsy’s ‘Everything’s Coming up Roses’ that removes all of its hard-bitten cynicism and desperation to make it a cheerfully warm and optimistic number that works surprisingly well. Whether bounding through an energetic ‘Don’t Rain on My Parade’ or causing goosebumps with a delicate ‘On the Street Where You Live’, Porter certainly gives good value for money.
A Cyndi Lauper double-hander – duetting with her on ‘Happy Days Are Here Again/Get Happy’ and redoing Kinky Boots’ ‘I‘m Not My Father’s Son’ with an acoustic bent – is superb and if the funked-up ‘Luck Be A Lady’ didn’t quite hit my buttons, a transcendent ‘I Am Changing’ from Dreamgirls should surely hit the spot for anyone. A striking set of 10 songs that showcases both Porter’s talent and personality with great aplomb.