Review: Mark Nadler

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Out cabaret star Mark Nadler is one of the greatest showmen of our time, capable of leaping from floor to piano bench, while keeping steady eye contact with the audience – all the while playing a complex passage on the piano without even glancing at the keys. In “Runnin’ Wild”, his new show about the Roaring Twenties, Nadler plays and sings with his usual virtuosic abandon, in a show constructed with his usual passionate intelligence. And as usual, the show is stunning.

I never walk out of a Mark Nadler show without leaning something. This one’s particularly fun in that I mostly learned what the twenties had to offer in the way of sex (gay and straight), drugs, booze – and drag queens! He mentions the queen that Mae West copied much her shtick from, Bert Savoy, and one so successful he had a theatre named after him, Julian Eltinge. But his best stories are about one of my personal favorites, Jean Malin. We can see Malin knocking gangsters on the floor and channeling Mae West and Sophie Tucker in this video.

Contrary to the caption of the video, we do know more than a little about Malin, and Mark sings and dances all about it. Great stuff! In between two bits of one of Malin’s signature numbers, he sandwiches Libby Holman’s lusty “Primitive Man”, and proceeds to take us on a roller coaster trip through the life and music of that irrepressible torch singer.

Nadler takes this boozy, tawdry journey around the world, from the opium dens of London in “Limehouse Blues”, to Berlin in an extended medley of Kurt Weill songs. And of course there’s a liberal dose of songs from perennial bad boy Cole Porter, who Nadler always does so brilliantly. I always love a Mark Nadler show, but as a plus with this one, I left feeling a little dirty. Highly recommended!

For tickets, click here.

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