by Brian Scott Lipton


Most singers celebrating their golden anniversary in show business would be eligible for Medicare and have possibly lost a little of their on-stage flair. But most performers aren’t Julie Budd, who celebrated her 50th year in show business—at the still vibrant age of 62—with a knockout show at the Metropolitan Room.


In many ways, Budd has come far from not just her native Brooklyn, but the Tamarack Resort in the Catskills (where winning a talent contest at the age of 12 launched her career), and even Las Vegas, where she performed alongside such legends as Frank Sinatra, Liberace, and Jimmy Durante (all of whom she recalled lovingly in her show).


Yet, the intervening decades have done little to alter the incredible range and flexibility of Budd’s voice (one of the reasons she was so often compared to Barbra Streisand when she began gaining national attention in the 1960s), and her sensitivity to lyrics and personal warmth have even grown throughout the years. Even if you weren’t a friend of the singer’s (and the house was clearly packed with them), you felt like you’d known Budd your whole life by the end of her 80-minute show.


And what music Budd packed in those 80 minutes! Her highly eclectic song list ranged from the Hebrew prayer “Shalom Alechem” to the Oscar-winning “Moon River” (the same tune that she performed at that now life-changing talent show) to such Broadway classics as “Home,” “Being Alive,” “I Got Rhythm,” “I Am What I Am,” and “Put on a Happy Face.” And while she often deliberately changed the songs’ original arrangements—adding some belt to one, making another jazzier, or slowing one down a bit—each number was delivered with total commitment.


Nowhere was her connection to the material more evident than in two excellent compositions by Herb Bernstein, her musical director and producer of 50 years: the slightly melancholy “When a Piano Plays” and the nostalgic “Looking Back.” And the audience simply couldn’t get on its feet fast enough after Budd’s mesmerizing medley of songs with lyrics by the great Oscar Hammerstein II, including a sterling rendition of “Hello Young Lovers” and a fierce “Something Wonderful.”


She closed her show with the beautiful Sammy Fain-Irving Kahal ballad “I’ll Be Seeing You” and the implicit promise that this performance was, in no way, the last we’ll hear from Julie Budd. Indeed, if she’s still on a stage in 2066, I won’t be the least surprised.


Julie Budd: The Next 50 Years was performed at The Metropolitan Room (34 West 22nd Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues) on Wednesday, September 21. 212-206-0440



Photo: Joseph Marzullo