Review: Mark Nadler

Cabaret star Mark Nadler is one of the greatest showmen of our time, leaping from floor to piano bench, keeping steady eye contact with the audience – all the while playing a complex passage on the piano without even glancing at the keys. In “The Old Razzle Dazzle,” his new show about lies, lying and liars, 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, perhaps among his best.

Also, a Mark Nadler show is always working on at least 3 or 4 tracks of thought. With the subject being lies, it’s pretty obvious that the current occupant of the White House is the ultimate target. But Nadler takes his time getting there. He starts out with the white lie, enumerated in Dave Frishberg’s “Blizzard of Lies” – which already starts getting political with lines like “I didn’t inhale” and “I am not a crook.”

Then he launches into the lies we say to children with a tellingly long medley – he starts with “Wishing on a Star” and ends with the thought of “if all else fails scare the bejesus out of them” before launching into “Oogie Boogie’s Song” from The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Early in the show, Nadler says “everything in this show is a lie” but it pretty quickly becomes clear that itself is a lie. Oh there are plenty of outrageous lies in the show, but the most important parts are true, and many of the worst lies are delivered with heavy sarcasm. The line, however, does have the positive effect of encouraging a skeptical frame of mind.

I don’t want to give everything away, but I’ll say that some of the most affecting moments deal with romantic self-deception – especially “The Lies of Handsome Men” and the Alan Menken rarity “Lie to Me” – and when Nadler does finally get to the egregious lies of the current administration, he does it with a tap dance. Highly recommended.

For tickets, click here.

To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.

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Review: Mark Nadler

Mark Nadler Addicted

Cabaret star Mark Nadler is one of the greatest showmen of our time, capable of leaping from floor to piano bench, tap-dancing madly, singing and keeping steady eye contact with the audience – all this while playing a complex passage on the piano without even glancing at the keys. His last few shows have been a little more subtle, but in his latest “Addicted to the Spotlight”, the taps shoes are on and all bets are off.

In this show, Nadler interweaves stories from his more than four decades in show business with those of two other guys who were addicted to the spotlight — Al Jolson and Danny Kaye. The songs in this act are all numbers that those two supreme show-offs did.

In addition to the hoofing, he plays and sings with virtuosic abandon, in a show constructed with the passionate intelligence I’ve come to expect from him. The result is pretty stunning. There are always many layers in a Mark Nadler show, ranging from the obvious to unspoken subtext, which gives an “oomph” far, far beyond your typical cabaret show.

The show evolves into a complex portrait of Nadler, Kaye and Jolson, capturing both the bright joys and dark nights that a life devoted to show business brings. There are occassional moments that flirt with schmaltzy sentiment, perhaps not inappropriate in a show about performers who express themselves in bold strokes. Even with that, this is as giddily entertaining – and breathtakingly smart – as cabaret gets. Highly recommended.

For tickets, click here.

To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.

Review: Mark Nadler

Mark-Nadler-900x600

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.

Review: I’m A Stranger Here Myself

Mark-Nadler-ImAStrangerHereMyself-Image 2013

Mark Nadler is one of the greatest showmen of our time, capable of leaping from floor to piano bench, tap-dancing madly, singing and keeping steady eye contact with the audience, all this while playing a complex passage on the piano without even glancing at the keys. However, in his latest, I’m A Stranger Here Myself, he takes a somewhat more low-key approach – the abundant theatrics and virtuosity are still there, but applied in a different way. Stranger was originally a cabaret show, but Mark has worked with director David Schweizer to craft it into an even more thoughtful multimedia theatre piece.

For this show, Nadler performs songs by German, French and Russian songwriters who were active between 1919 and 1933, the years of Germany’s Wiemar Republic (though not all the songs are from that period). Nadler examines these composers’ lives as well as those of ordinary German citizens caught up in that politically and emotionally charged period, leading his audience into some surprising corners.

There’s usually at least a gay subtext to Mark’s shows, but gayness is all out in the open on this one, where he spends much time reflecting on the place of gays and Jews in the socially progressive Wiemar era. As open an era as it was, though, homosexuality was still illegal, and Nadler highlights the bravery of lyricist Kurt Schwabach and composer Mischa Spoliansky who wrote the totally astonishing “Lavender Song (Das Lila Lied)” – as defiant an anthem for gay rights as I’ve ever heard – in 1920.

I’m A Stranger Here Myself was already ripe for adaptation into a more theatrical piece. That’s because, more than any other cabaret artist I’m aware of, Nadler puts his shows together with passionate intelligence and careful structuring – to truly stunning results. His shows are truly theatre pieces and truly cabaret, all at once, this has just shifted the emphasis even further towards theatre. There are always many layers in a Mark Nadler show, ranging from the obvious, to the unspoken subtext; this one has an even more profound emotional pull, and is truly not to be missed.

For tickets, click here.

Review: Mark Nadler

Cabaret star Mark Nadler is one of the greatest showmen of our time, capable of leaping from floor to piano bench, tap-dancing madly, singing and keeping steady eye contact with the audience, all this while playing a complex passage on the piano without even glancing at the keys. However, in his latest at 54 Below, I’m A Stranger Here Myself, he takes a somewhat more low-key approach – the abundant theatrics and virtuosity are still there, but applied in a different way.

For this show, Nadler performs songs by German and French songwriters who were active between 1919 and 1933, the years of Germany’s Wiemar Republic (though not all the songs are from that period). Nadler examines these composers’ lives as well as those of ordinary German citizens caught up in that politically and emotionally charged period, leading his audience into some surprising corners.

There’s usually at least a gay subtext to Mark’s shows, but gayness is all out in the open on this one, where he spends much time reflecting on the place of gays and Jews in the socially progressive Wiemar era. As open an era as it was, though, homosexuality was still illegal, and Nadler highlights the bravery of lyricist Kurt Schwabach and composer Mischa Spoliansky who wrote the totally astonishing “Lavender Song (Das Lila Lied)” – as defiant an anthem for gay rights as I’ve ever heard – in 1920.

I’m always referring to the titles of Mark’s shows and talking about them as theatrical pieces. That’s because, more than any other cabaret artist I’m aware of, Nadler puts his shows together with passionate intelligence and careful structuring – to truly stunning results. His shows are truly theatre pieces and truly cabaret, all at once. There are always many layers in a Mark Nadler show, ranging from the obvious, to the unspoken subtext, which gives an “oomph” far, far beyond your typical cabaret show. This one has an even more profound emotional pull, and is truly not to be missed.

For tickets, click here.

CD Review: “Crazy 1961” by Mark Nadler

Based on his latest cabaret act, Mark Nadler’s new CD Crazy 1961 finds him playing and singing with his usual virtuosic abandon and passionate intelligence. The result is stunning: Nadler packs over 61 songs onto this CD, a celebration of the year of his birth. There are always many layers in anything that Nadler does, ranging from the obvious to unspoken subtext, which gives his work an “oomph” far, far beyond the typical. On the CD, as in the show, Mark paints a complex portrait of the exact place and time that he was born, in exciting and ultimately moving ways. Every single song on the CD is from 1961, and he finishes with a truly insane medley of fifty songs from the year. This is as giddily entertaining – and breathtakingly smart – as a cabaret CD gets.

To purchase, click here.