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BWW Review: Nellie McKay at Kennedy Center

BWW Review: Nellie McKay at Kennedy Center
Nellie McKay. Photo by Shervin Lainez.

The recording artist/composer/free spirit known as Nellie McKay is not your typical performer to be sure. It's actually hard to even associate her with a particular musical genre because she performed a little bit of everything in her concert at Kennedy Center as part of the Renée Fleming VOICES series.

I knew this concert was going to be a little out of the box when the house announcement started. McKay did a long rambling speech with an Irish accent about turning off your cell phones that included something about the tumors you will get on your hands if you don't. Yeah, McKay is definitely quirky.

Upon entering the stage, McKay picked up one of her two ukuleles and her harmonica and started us off with "Red Rubber Ball," and then "High Anxiety" which was then followed up by "I Cover the Waterfront." See what I mean about McKay performing a very wide range of material? It made for a very eclectic evening.

In all McKay performed 29 songs and for me to say something about all of those would take far too long and bore you to death. Having said that, here are a few of my favorites.

McKay is quite the musician and her piano skills came out full force in a medley of "Pennies From Heaven", "On the Sunny Side of the Street," "Bernsha Swing," and "Totto Dies (Melody)."

Vocally, numbers like "Accentuate the Positive" and "I Wanna Get Married" were definite highlights.

I was very impressed with her nod to Ella Fitzgerald. She performed "A-Tisket, A-Tasket" singing not only the lead vocal, but also the back- up vocal parts usually heard by Ella's musicians. Nice touch.

I have to say that as much as I admire McKay's free-spirited style as a performer, her patter left me with a WTF moment or two. The biggest one probably was her telling the story of a pot-induced dream that involved Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. You can draw your own conclusion.

She also alluded to a show she is working on about the life of Joan Rivers, but gave precious little information. I actually was very interested in knowing more and I hope it comes to full fruition.

All in all, Nellie McKay gave a performance that I won't soon forget for many good reasons.

Running Time: 95 minutes with no intermission.

Nellie McKay performed a one-night-only engagement on February 8, 2019 in the Terrace Theater at the Kennedy Center.

For upcoming events in the Renée Fleming VOICES series, click here.

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