Review: Mark Nadler’s Broadway Hootenanny
ark Nadler has been the ultimate star of this year’s Adelaide Cabaret Festival. With ten shows over two and a half weeks, the piano-pounding, tap-dancing, guest-staring craziness of the Broadway Hootenanny is an almost indescribable experience – it has taken me six shows to get to the point when I am writing this version of a review, and many other versions have passed me by.
Nadler has this undeniable crazy charm, which leads to some of the best one-liners you’ll ever hear, evoking peels of laughter: that is, when you’re not sitting there absolutely gob-smacked and in shock at what he just said. Occasionally completely overstepping the line, more often just not quite thinking things through, the Hootenanny is not one for the faint of heart. And the easily embarrassed? Step to the rear. Nadler is not above audience participation; rather, he relishes in talking with, and yes, making fun of his audience. My heart skipped a couple of beats the other night just when he was talking to a woman at the table next to me with the same name! Perhaps that is a sign I should avoid sitting at the front tables, but how to resist being that close to the insane action?
Because it’s free, Nadler declared to us on the opening night, he won’t be rehearsing anything! And because it’s free, you can’t complain! But why would you? The insanity of Nadler taking the show wherever he so chooses on that night is one of its biggest charms. Will it be a night of showtunes, of blues? How many guest-stars, who will they be? Will those brilliant (and I mean brilliant) tapping shoes come out? Will his chicken stay on the stage, fly into the audience, get into a three-way between Nadler and Virginia Gay? You can see these are very pressing questions.
The line up of guest stars has been incredible, and Nadler relishes in every moment in sharing his stage (although, I hear I missed him storming off one night when a drunk guest star wouldn’t leave, oops). Clearly enamored by Australian performers (and aren’t we all?), the love and community which comes from that Piano Bar stage is enough to make anyone smile. The breadth of guest artists is also amazing, and I love that Nadler is bringing up not only Festival artists, but also people who have flown into Adelaide to see shows, Cabaret Fringe artists, and some other brilliant Adelaide performers.
With his guest stars, Nadler becomes this microcosm of the Festival itself: the Campbell’s definition of Cabaret is wonderfully broad, and the Hootenany is the place where these disparate elements come together, so you think of course these are all cabaret!
Whether he is on the piano playing one of the 5,000 songs he reportedly has memorised, or he is sight-reading sheet music, or tap dancing, or singing, or acting, or any combination of these things, with any number of guests, Nadler is incredible. Why anyone would want to see Chicago when you could see him play all six roles in Cell Block Tango is beyond me. But beyond being such an amazing talent, he is also incredibly generous: he invites guest up on to the stage for their chance to shine: and shine they do. The best time is had when everyone on that stage is showing off the best they are: and you always feel like that is happening. The audience is very privileged indeed.
David Campbell has asked Nadler to return to the Festival next year, but before he comes back (fingers crossed!) you can catch him twice more: Wednesday and Thursday night. Make sure you do.