BWW Reviews: ADELAIDE CABARET FESTIVAL 2014: MARK NADLER'S RUNNIN' WILD SONGS AND SCANDALS OF THE ROARING 20'S Transports Adelaide to the Era of Prohibition
Reviewed Wednesday 18th June 2014, 7pm, Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre.
In a white dinner jacket and striped waistcoat, toting a violin case Mark Nadler sets the mood for his new show Runnin' Wild - Songs and Scandals of the Roaring 20's with his own arrangement of Cole Porter's Lets Misbehave, and Lets Do It and Harrington Gibbs, Joel Grey and Leo Wood's Runnin' Wild as he transports his audience to the sex, drug and alcohol fuelled era of prohibition. The medley, with a pared back self accompaniment on the piano, highlights the cheeky wide eyed enthusiasm synonymous with Nadler's performance style that draws the audience in so effectively. Nadler is joined by Sophia MacRae on clarinet, appropriately dressed in flapper dress and feathers and Rob Chenoweth on Trumpet.
As with Nadler's other structured shows, as opposed to his unscripted Broadway Hootenannies, the audience is taken on a well-researched journey into the era of excess, scandal and underground nightclubs with seemingly effortless ease. Nadler's passion for the era is evident in his ease of sharing the many amazing facts behind the scandals and the songs he uses to enhance the mood, with the casualness of a friend sharing an anecdote. All of the songs woven into the story come from the 13 year period of prohibition and draw on the work of Irving Berlin, Kurt Weill, and Halsley K Mohr, amongst others. Nadler ensures that the fabulous lyrics of these pieces are not lost as can be the case with many other performers. His voice, body language and facial expressions enforce the descriptive, evocative and emotive songs and the monologues. His flexibility with a range of character voices and dramatizations from 15 year old girl to a distressed drag queen Jean Malin and an accused murder Libby Holman adds wonderful twists to the stories.
Whilst the performance centres around the people and events of the 1920's in America, London and lesser extent Europe, Nadler does manage to weave his own childhood experiences from 1960's Iowa into the story, likening his experiences with his childhood friend and her religious mother to the promiscuity, experimentation and discovery in the 1920's and the proponents of the prohibition. Another more personal touch is his Martini making lesson and his personal exploration into the perfect gin martini as part of his research as opposed to his normal favourite vodka martini. His macabre explanation of the benefits and downfalls of the speed with which gin can be made is darkly amusing.
The show is perfectly rounded out with a pondering of the aftermath of the era and its major players and if their often unfortunate demise was a payback for the excess, sin, sex and scandal that made the era so captivating and memorable. He uses these thoughts and an energetic rendition of Irving Berlin's Pack Up Your Sins and Go to the Devil to confirm his wish that the "curse" from his neighbour's mother, that his soul be saved was not real as everyone he knows, from his band and support crew at the venue, all listed by name, to the audience, will be down in Hell having fun
This fabulous performance confirms why Mark Nadler is a favourite at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival and has received so many nominations and awards throughout his career. Whilst the Adelaide season for Runnin' Wild - Songs and Scandals of the Roaring 20's has ended there is still the chance to see Mark's Broadway Hootenanny at The Backstage Club at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival
Photo Credit: John Mazlish