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PortWatch

March 6, 2014

Packing in the performances

Variety Tonight! spotlights a smorgasbord of local talent

If variety is the spice of life, then next Thursday’s show at the Firehouse Center for the Arts in Newburyport is shaping up to be extra-spicy.

Actor, singer, parodist and impersonator John Budzyna has assembled a number of other local performers to join him for Variety Tonight! Along with renditions of Broadway and pop songs, the evening will feature Budzyna’s parody songs about the city, including a few from 2011’s “Forbidden Newburyport.”

It was that revue, created by Suzanne Hitchcock Bryan and based on the idea of “Forbidden Broadway,” that helped inspire Budzyna to put on this variety show.

“It kind of rekindled my creative juices,” Budzyna said. “The variety show as an institution has slowly kind of disappeared from our culture.”

A new song premiering at next week’s show is a spoof of Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball.” Though Budzyna, a Newburyport resident, is keeping most of the details under wraps, he does share that it includes lyrics about Mayor Donna Holaday and the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority.

“It’s just the perfect song to parody, no matter what the topic,” said Budzyna, the former executive director of the Firehouse.

Budzyna said the ideas for his parodies usually come to him on a whim, forcing him to grab a napkin or his cellphone to get the lyrics down. For example, his song about the Crow Lane landfill, featured in “Forbidden Newburyport,” was inspired by “Maria” from “West Side Story,” in which his son Colin was starring at the time.

“I just thought it would be fun to sing a beautiful song about something that’s smelly and a source of contention,” Budzyna said.

Variety Tonight! also boasts appearances by Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand, in the form of one of Budzyna’s “comedic staples”: He takes on both parts of “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers.” His impersonations are apparently so spot-on that a critic of a past performance was sure he was lip-syncing. He has since changed some of the lyrics to prove that he is really singing live.

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