The Old Razzle Dazzle: An Evening of Lies, Lying and Liars

ACF23-Mark-Nadler-photo-by-Claudio-Raschella Another day of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, another one-night-only show to anticipate. The Old Razzle Dazzle by American pianist and song-and-dance man Mark Nadler is billed as: “An Evening of Lies, Lying and Liars.”

Nadler first visited the festival in 2004, performing with KT Sullivan. Other shows followed, and the un-ticketed sessions in the old Piano Bar (with some raucous moments and guest spots) certainly helped to cement Nadler’s “must see” status with this audience.

Some years after his last visit, Nadler returns with slippery show, one that (appropriately!) is not what it first appears. He promised us that almost everything he would tell us for the next 75 minutes would be a lie.

The number of terms like “telling porkies” or “colouring the truth” show the human ability to mislead in different ways, for varied purposes. It all starts from Santa and the Tooth Fairy, and Nadler reminded us (with a mirror ball, just one of the Lighting Designer’s delicious flourishes) with his Twinkle Twinkle Little Star that could lull any child to slumber. (Nadler grumbled that if that song were true, he’d have many more awards.)

Of course, dishonesty doesn’t just stop with fibs to manage tots or cover minor mistakes. Sometimes lies are told to cover infidelity (explored through the pained discovery made in Guess Who I Saw Today, first heard in New Faces of 1952 on Broadway).

Sometimes a fast-talking conman will expertly prey on fears that new pastimes will corrupt the youth (Ya Got Trouble from Broadway’s The Music Man, 1957). Sometimes a lawyer needs to distract a jury from the truth about the defendant (an effortlessly confident Razzle Dazzle from Chicago, 1975).

Then there are lies with even bigger consequences, where we start to delve into the question posed in the programme: “What’s the harm in one little white lie?” We had a glimpse of life amidst propaganda from London-born Jew Friedrich Holläender writing Illusions (famously sung by Marlene Dietrich)  of the time in Germany between world wars where fairy tales would be a relief from reality.

Of course, American citizens have suffered from a supersized version of this from certain figures, up to the time of “The Big Lie” after their 2020 presidential election. Here, Nadler’s extremely physical performance gave us a snappy “greatest hits” of mistruths and distortions in a way that Broadway would be proud of. And as we’re in the Banquet Room, the audience was close enough to see the sweaty results of Nadler’s complete commitment.

During the show (remember the concept!) Nadler said that he didn’t want to get political, as Cabaret was never intended for that. Ha! Festival goers wondering if there was enough Cabaret in the 2023 event will have been delighted with the finesse of Nadler’s piano playing, his excavation of somewhat obscure tunes that still resonate today, and the sharpness of his delivery.

For those unfortunate enough to have missed the show, don’t despair. At the time of writing, tickets to Mark Nadler’s Hootenanny at 10:30pm on Saturday 17 June are still available. We would have to expect that these will further add to the Nadler highlight real. Would I lie to you?

The Old Razzle Dazzle: An Evening of Lies, Lying and Liars
Banquet Room – Adelaide Festival Centre, King William Road, Adelaide
Performance: Thursday 15 June 2023 – 9.15pm

Image: Mark Nadler – photo by Claudio Raschella

Review: Jason Whyte