Friday, June 20, 2003

Sweet and Lowdown
Dunsten Playhouse
By Stephen Whittington

I rushed straight from Bednarczyk and Ross to this show, convinced anything would be an anticlimax after that brilliant double act.

I was wrong.

I certainly hadn’t reckoned on the human dynamo that is Mark Nadler, the only man alive who can play the piano while tap dancing, or while somehow crouching on the piano stool in a convincingly simulated drunken stupour.

For all-round talent, Nadler is without peer.  His approach to performance is the full-on frontal assault.  He may not be as debonair as Ross or have the exquisite timing of Bednarczyk but his combination of talent and energy is irresistible.

He’s an excellent pianist and his arrangements of Gershwin songs were peppered with quotes from other Gershwin pieces – Concerto in F, American in Paris and the like – used with some point, not just gratuitously thrown in.

Add to Nadler’s cyclonic presence the glamour and delectable singing of K.T. Sullivan and you have a dazzling show.  They did a French-English rendition of Embraceable You, replete with outrageous double entendres, with Sullivan as a French hooker and Nadler an innocent Yank from New Rochelle.  (Strangely, Ross actually is from New Rochelle.)

They retold the entire, implausible story of Shall We Dance with all the songs, including an uncharacteristically restrained and beautiful version by Nadler of They Can’t Take That Away From Me.  The little-known Lorelei emerged as a major Gershwin song in Sullivan’s delicious performance.

There weren’t any highlights to this show because there weren’t any lowlights.  It was simply non-stop, over-the-top, knock-your-socks-off, full-on entertainment from beginning to end.