Mark Nadler: Hootenanny

Mark-Nadler-Hootenanny-photo-by-Claudio-RaschellaIt’s been ten years since New Yorker Mark Nadler last brought a season of his infamous Hootenanny to Adelaide Cabaret Festival audiences. This second and final night of the run was packed with musical delights and surprises, as if he was trying to make up for lost time.

“Hootenanny” is a peculiarly American term that the Merriam–Webster dictionary defines as “A gathering at which folk singers entertain, often with the audience joining in.” Fun-loving Nadler must enjoy the word, taking some artistic license in slanting his version towards Broadway and showtunes.

Unlike the themed show The Old Razzle Dazzle earlier this festival, the late-night Hootenanny allowed Nadler to share the Banquet Room stage with others and tell some more frivolous stories.

A selection of special guests was largely drawn from festival acts, or the “Cabaret Collective” of former festival Artistic Directors. This gave punters the chance to see a little of performers we couldn’t fit into our schedules, and will surely stimulate interest in seeing more.

As our effervescent, unpredictable host, Nadler had some tunes to reinvent, and some trouble to make. Sure, he can tinkle the ivories, and he can also karate chop the ebonies if a movement needs some extra emphasis.

From the piano, Michael Griffiths (It’s A Sin) delivered You’re the Top, where his amusing additions celebrated the Adelaide Festival Centre’s recent 50th anniversary. In other selections of this bracket, Nadler showed himself part performer and part monkey, duetting with Griffiths in a very original manner.

Nadler has a particular affection for Paris, and invited fellow francophone and past festival Artistic Director Julia Zemiro (Rockwiz Salutes Adelaide) to the stage, accompanied by recently-announced Artistic Director for 2024, Virginia Gay (guest spots including Comedians Auditioning for Musicals).

Somehow the performers maintained their modesty in a vigorous rendition of Lady Marmalade. Clearly, audience AND performers were here to have a pretty loose time.

Nadler’s banter with Sarah-Louise Young (An Evening Without Kate Bush) brought out the pair’s talents in celebrity impressions as they shared film casting stories. Young showed herself adept in reproducing Julie Andrews’ sound from A Spoonful of Sugar.

Ever mischievous, Nadler engineered a reunion of a student vocal group comprised of Adelaide Uni alumni Libby O’Donovan, Michelle Nicolle, and the festival’s Executive Producer, Alex Sinclair, but all was not as it first appeared.

Those unable to see Nicolle and O’Donovan in More Than a Melody would have appreciated this extra chance to experience the harmonies and jazz stylings on offer.

Whilst it was all a bit of fun to see Nadler generously share the stage with other performers, fans were surely here for the star’s tales and to see this singular talent up close. For stories, we had Nadler’s account of who you can meet when drinking until 4.00am in the Intercontinental Hotel, adjacent to the Festival Centre.

For musical highlights, Nadler’s mash-up of the Gershwin tunes ‘S Wonderful and Rhapsody in Blue could only be described as a staggeringly good example of his ability to tell a story in an unexpected way.

This Hootenanny was certainly a diverse and wild night that will long live in the memories of the audience. Festival goers would surely hope that it’s not too long until Nadler returns to brighten the Adelaide winter.

Banquet Room – Adelaide Festival Centre, King William Road, Adelaide
Performance: Saturday 17 June 2023 – 10:30pm

Image: Mark Nadler – photo by Claudio Raschella

Review: Jason Whyte