Mark Nadler in "Runnin’ Wild-Songs and Scandals of the Roaring 20’s"
By: Linda Amiel Burns
Mark Nadler is a performer like no other. He is unique, the ultimate showman and a force of nature. I have followed his career from the early days, and watched him grow as an artist as he continues to take risks and always comes up with new and fresh ideas for shows. We all witnessed his incredible "Hootenanys" at Sardis, "Tchaikovsky (And Other Russians" and his last offering, "I’m a Stranger Here Myself" which began at 54 Below, played for several months at the York Theater and was just nominated for a Drama Desk Award.
Mark is not only a virtuoso on the piano, but he sings, tells great stories and knows how to entertain an audience. His latest show "Runnin’ Wild – Songs and Scandals of the Roaring 20’s" now at Broadway’s Night Club, 54 Below, attests to that fact. The emphasis is on songs of that era when Prohibition was in full swing and there were over 32,000 speakeasies in NY alone. Women finally got the vote in 1920, they bobbed their hair, shortened their skirts and sex, drugs, booze and scandals were in full force. That is when the term "flapper" was born. The Roaring 20’s didn’t end with the Stock Market Crash as people surmised, but lasted until 1933 past the beginning of the Depression.
Mark entered wearing an elegant white dinner jacket singing "Runnin’ Wild" (Gibbs, Grey & Wood). Two attractive woman dressed in the attire of the 20’s came on stage to accompany him: Elaine Burt on trumpet and Janelle Reichman on clarinet. The first number was a medley of two suggestive Cole Porter songs that was considered racy at the time, "Let’s Misbehave" and "Let’s Do It." Mark has done his research and throughout the evening, we learned interesting facts about the music and the era. It seems that the song "Willie The Weeper" (1927) became "Minnie The Moocher" in 1931 when Cab Calloway made it popular. Mark performed it and the audience responded on the "hi dee hi dee" section much to everyone’s delight.
At one point, Mark got up from the piano and opened a violin case to carefully remove the ingredients for the perfect martini, explaining that it can be made with either vodka or gin. As he poured himself a Martini, Mark talked about the "scandalous women" of the day, torch singer Libby Holman, Mae West, Clara Bow, drag queen, Jean Malin and others. There was lots of juicy tidbits, gossip, murders and mayhem and the audience ate up.
A highlight of the show was a medley about the opium dens of the time that Mark built to a thrilling climax, combining the Gershwin, DeSylva, Mills "Limehouse Nights" with Braham & Furbers "Limehouse Blues." Cole Porter’s "Love For Sale" caused an uproar when it was first written and Mark performed it beautifully, combining the song with the sensuous "Body & Soul" (Green, Heyman, Sour & Eyton) about longing and lust.
We traveled with Mark to Berlin for a "Three Penny Opera" Medley and these songs were the perfect example of the wickedness and decadence of the era. To wrap it all up, Mark closed with a fantastic rendition of "Pack Up Your Sins and Go To The Devil" (Irving Berlin) that contained a thrilling piano solo and showed the energy and skill of this one of a kind entertainer.
Mark quoted Heyward Hale Broun who said "The Jazz Age was wicked and monstrous and silly. Unfortunately, I had a good time." Well, you cannot help but have a good time at Mark’s show. There are only two more shows left in this run at 54 Below before he takes it to the Adelaide Cabaret Festival in Australia. The dates are May 7 – 9:30PM and May 14 – 7:00PM. So run, do not walk to see the one and only Mark Nadler celebrate the spirit of the Roaring Twenties through music, songs and scandals!
For more info and reservations:
234 West 54th Street