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Paulanne Simmons

Mark Nadler Revisits the Weimar Republic with Songs and Stories

"I’m a Stranger Here Myself"
Directed by David Schweizer
The York Theater Company at St. Peters
East 54 Street, east of Lexington Ave.
From April 29, 2013
April 20-May 4: Monday and Tuesday at 7pm, Wednesday thru Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 2:30pm & 8pm;
May 7-May 29 add Sunday at 2:30pm
Tickets: $67.50 www.yorktheatre.org or 212 935-5820
Closes May 19, 2013
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons April 30, 2013


Mark Nadler, at piano, Jessica Wright on violin and Franca Vercelloni on accordion. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

If you find history fascinating, you’ll like Mark Nadler’s solo musical, “I’m a Stranger Here Myself.” And if you enjoy music, especially from the era before World War II, you’ll like “I’m a Stranger Here Myself.” But if if you’re fascinated by history and you enjoy music from the era before World War II, you’ll positively fall in love with the show.

In “I’m a Stranger Here Myself,” Nadler examines the culture of the Weimar Republic through song and anecdote. This period was in many ways a particularly promising one in German history. Established in 1919 after the fall of the kaiser, the Weimar Republic was the first democratically elected parliamentary government in German history. It lasted until Hitler and the Nazis took over.

This was an era of great cultural diversity and sexual freedom. It was also a time of self discovery and alienation. And it was a time when cabarets flourished. Nadler, who has earned considerable acclaim as a cabaret performer, is the ideal person to examine this period of time.

Mark Nadler. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

The set of “I’m a Stranger Here Myself” suggests an ocean liner cabin. This connotes both the wandering spirit and the isolation of many of the people whose lives Nadler examines. But the stage is dominated by the grand piano. This is a story told mostly in music. And thanks to David Schweizer’s excellent direction, “I’m a Stranger Here Myself” sails effortlessly between song and monologue.

Backed by Franc Vercelloni on accordion and Jessica Tyler Wright on violin, and accompanying himself on piano, Nadler sings the songs that reflect those times. The songs are in French, German and English. Many are by Kurt Weil: “Je Ne T’aime Pas,” “I’m a Stranger Here Myself” and “My Ship.”

But there’s also Marlene Dietrich’s “I May Never Go Home Again,” and “The Lavender Song,” with music by Mischa Spoliansky, and lyrics by Kurt Schwabach. This song, with a chorus that begins, “We're not afraid to be queer and different/if that means hell -- well, hell we'll take the chance,” was a gay anthem before Jerry Herman’s “I Am What I Am.”

Jessica Wright on violin and Franca Vercelloni on accordion. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Nadler introduces the songs with stories from the lives of such luminaries as Lotte Lenya, Marlene Dietrich and Friedrich Hollaender. Many of these people were Jewish or married to Jews. Often they fled to the United States to escape the Nazis. Their stories and songs are enhanced by projected photos of the time period.

At the end of the show the narrative takes on a personal tone, which gives the show an emotional charge that makes “I’m a Stranger Here Myself” much more than a documentary with music.

“I’m a Stranger Here Myself” is both an intellectual and artistic achievement. It is a moving personal story. Most of all, it’s great theater.


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