Review By Lisa Lanzi
Cabaret superstar Mark Nadler is BACK. After Covid enforced touring restrictions this much awarded, dazzling New Yorker returns to the Adelaide Cabaret Festival this year.
Nadler is the kind of performer who simply could not, and should not, be doing anything else. This person, I posit, was genetically programmed to be on stage: he is a prodigy on the piano, belts huge Broadway hits or croons heart-breaking, dramatic ballads (and everything in between), is a storyteller of the highest order, and tap dances up a storm while the audience yells for more.
With this offering, dripping satire and bite, Nadler assures us that everything he utters on stage this night is a lie, from misquoted Dorothy Parkerisms, to a parade of political ‘promises’ he soliloquizes whilst tap-dancing. An Evening of Lies Lying and Liars (“brought to us by the law firm of Hogwash Balderdash and Spin”) is a wild ride peppered with songs, gags and stories, infectious energy, and definitely a whopping dose of razzle dazzle, and yes, Nadler does sing Kander and Ebb’s winning Chicago number at the end of the night.
The first song is Friedrich Hollaender’s “Illusions” and as the night progressed, it was a revelation how many great songs are centred around lies, lying and liars. With a saccharin-sweet delivery of the Pinocchio (see what he did there?) theme “When You Wish Upon A Star” (Leigh Harline and Ned Washington) Nadler reminds us just how much of our childhoods were soaked in falsehood: Santa, the tooth fairy, the Easter bunny, the bogeyman, and more. There are also learned quotes that highlight (lie) about three separate generations being ‘ruined’ by music genres: rap, rock and roll, and ragtime; and as Dave Frishberg’s song explains, no wonder we are all ‘rotten’ since we are marooned in a “Blizzard Of Lies”.
Adopting a more mellow mood, love doesn’t get any opportunities to avoid the theme of the night, Nadler delivers an emotional, character-driven version of “The Lies of Handsome Men” by Francesca Blumenthal. With his full belt in full swing, our star shifted into a big version of “How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Love You When You Know I’ve Been a Liar All My Life?” (Lane and Lerner) from Royal Wedding. Still on the heartbreak train, Nadler launched into a chilling dramatic version of “Guess Who I Saw Today” by Murray Grand and Elisse Boyd. Then “The Great Pretender” began in a pared back, elegant fashion until it climaxed with pounding piano and vocal highs.
Once more exhibiting his impeccable characterization skills, Nadler gave us his hilarious version of “Little Tin Box” from Fiorello! (Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick). If you have never seen this artist work a piano, sing AND tap dance while sitting, look him up. This number led us into some welcome political/satirical territory because of course, ahem, “cabaret is NEVER political”, and we were entertained with some pointed party-political quotes. Another Hollaender song, the 1931 “Münchhausen” sung in English and German, links us back to the remarkable Weimar era and German Kabarett with its ingenious political satire and dark, gallows humour: “Liar, liar, liar, liar, liar, liar; Truth is as hard and tough as nails; that's why we need fairy tales”.
The perfect Cabaret antidote to our cold Winter, Mark Nadler is a treasure to be savoured. Let’s hope he returns next year!