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Paulanne Simmons

Mark Nadler Celebrates 1961

"Crazy 1961"
Laurie Beechman Theatre
Within the West Bank Café, 407 West 42nd Street
Three Brunch Shows: Sundays, Jan. 15, 22 & 29
Music charge is $25, with a $15 food and drink minimum
For reservations call 212/695-6909,
or visit http://www.westbankcafe.com/beechman_theatre.html
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Jan. 22, 2012

Mark Nadler in Crazy 1961.

For the extraordinary cabaret performer, Mark Nadler, 1961 was a most interesting year, mostly because it was the year of his birth. But in his show, "Crazy 1961," he manages to make that year almost equally interesting for everyone in the audience.

1961 is the year that saw the emergence of such songs as "Once In A Lifetime," "Sail Away" and "I Believe In You," all of which he performs, playing the piano and backed by a four piece band (Scott Johnson on guitar, Mark Lopeman on reeds, Robert Sabin on bass and Sherrie Maricle on drums,).

It is also the year in which the Beatles and Bob Dylan gave their first public performances, The Supremes made their first recording, Streisand her first television appearance, and Garland her legendary comeback at Carnegie Hall. And how about Carole Channing walking onstage with the first body mike, thus changing Broadway forever?

The son of a lawyer who felt more comfortable in the black part of town, Nadler has his own view of the political events of the day: JFK’s presidency and the launching of the Peace Corps, the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Freedom Riders, Russia Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s historic orbit into outer space. and the construction of the Berlin Wall. Something of a history buff, he seems to take as much pleasure relating these interesting facts as performing the songs.

Nadler is also a wonderful raconteur. His stories of growing up Jewish and gay in Waterloo, Iowa are not to be missed or, one suspects, to be entirely believed.

Mark Nadler in Crazy 1961.

Not content to amuse us with his stories, intrigue us with his facts and entertain us with his songs, Nadler also challenges the audience with personal interpretations of well-known numbers.

Nadler’s highly emotional and thoughtful rendition of "This Is Dedicated To The One I Love" makes us listen to the words in a whole new way. "Love Makes the world Go
’Round," peppered with the less noble events of the year is a troubling reminder that love does not always make the world go round.

Because, Nadler says, there is always someone in the audience who complains that a favorite song has been left out, he ends the show (all but the encore) with a medley of the top 50 hits of 1961. These songs are sung at breakneck speed but not so fast that one can’t recognize favorites like Elvis’s hit, "Can’t Help Falling in Love," and Fred Parris’s "In the Still of the Night."

1961 was also the year the Pillsbury Doughboy and the Ken (of Ken and Barbie) were born. But neither one of them can sing, play the piano, joke and jive. Mark Nadler’s whirlwind journey through 1961 is not to be missed.

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