Cabaret Festival

Cabaret Festival Review: Hootenanny – Mark Nadler

One for the in-group

One for the in-group

Presented by: Adelaide Cabaret Festival
Reviewed: 7 June, 2024

Singer, pianist, tap dancer and old-style entertainer Mark Nadler held queenly court in the Banquet Room for an hour and a half tonight. In a room largely populated by his aficionados, he presents an event which feels rather like being asked around to his place late at night for a gossip and a bit of a sing around the piano. All very ad hoc, laid back and chummy. 

Nadler enters the stage yelling “Hey, everybody, let’s have some fun. You only live but once and when you’re dead you’re done”, the first lines of Louis Jordan’s  Let The Good Times Roll. He then proceeds to sing and play it loudly, in barrelhouse style. His energy cannot be faulted.  A New York City artist, Nadler covers the Great American Songbook (specialising in Gershwin) and show tunes, embedded within waspish exchanges with audience members and wry chit-chat. He often interrupts his songs with throwaway lines to audience members, while also dutifully promoting (and consuming) the product of a major Cabaret Festival sponsor, Grant Burge Wines.

Nattily suited, he sings and plays classics (Gershwin’s They Can’t Take That Away From Me and I Got Rhythm, Kander’s All That Jazz) with florid jazz stylings on the piano. He introduces four other Cabaret Festival artists throughout the show, accompanying them on piano, and then duetting with them. Gillian Cosgriff, a skilled and nuanced jazz vocalist, does a lovely job of “Why Try To Change Me Now. Bert LaBonté slowly shapes Makin’ Whoopee into a big warm hug of a song. His craftsmanship is always there and never obvious. British satirical sisters Flo and Joan sang and played an uproariously funny original song, I Drank Too Much with comedic character and flair. 

However, Nadler’s work is not as neatly finished and carefully crafted as that of his guests. The very best work he does is performing all six characters in Kander’s Cell Block Tango.  It is a physically demanding, well-choreographed, comic tour de force. His most sincere and thoughtful song is Gershwin’s How Long Has This Been Going On?  He sings it quietly and slowly. It is not peppered with asides to the audience.

At one stage in the proceedings, Nadler, for no discernible reason, thwacks a rubber chicken repeatedly on his piano, then hurls it into the audience. The crowd loved it. I suspect you would need to have seen previous performances to make any sense of this. 

To summarise, we get fifteen great songs, performed by Nadler and his four guest artists. There is a general air of lively bonhomie in the room. The event is entertaining for people who have never seen Nadler work before, but an ecstatic homecoming for his very vocal fans.

Reviewed by Pat. H. Wilson

Photo credit: Claudio Raschella

Venue: Banquet Room, Adelaide Festival Centre
Season: 7th – 9th June, 2024
Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes
Tickets: $39:00 (no concessions)

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