Nadler's Solo Hit, Tschaikowsky (and Other Russians), Is Broadway-Aimed

News   Nadler's Solo Hit, Tschaikowsky (and Other Russians), Is Broadway-Aimed
Mark Nadler's popular solo show with piano, Tschaikowsky (and Other Russians), a cabaret event that has grown into a musical theatre specialty seen in venues around the world, has been optioned for Broadway.
Mark Nadler
Mark Nadler

The singer-pianist known for his solo cabaret engagements (and gigs with singer KT Sullivan) in some of the nation's best nightspots told Oct. 2 that producer Michael Alden, whose Broadway producing credits include Bridge & Tunnel and Grey Gardens, will shepherd the piano-and-voice show to Broadway in 2008.

Mark Waldrop (When Pigs Fly, Bea Arthur on Broadway) will join the project as director, with Nadler continuing as the show's star, creator, writer and arranger.

Nadler revealed that the show will have a fresh title when it moves to a commercial Broadway run. There has been concern from its earliest days (even when it was booked into the Russian-themed Firebird restaurant in Manhattan) that the title Tschaikowsky (and Other Russians) would scare people off.

"A lot of people think it's an evening of classical music — and it's not," Nadler explained. "We're working on that."

The current title (which nevertheless attracted audiences at the Edinburgh Festival, in Adelaide, Australia and at American Conservatory Theater's Geary Theatre in San Francisco) is borrowed from the song by lyricist Ira Gershwin and composer Kurt Weill, from their 1941 musical, Lady in the Dark. In that show, in less than a minute, Danny Kaye sang an antic tribute to Russian and Polish composers — and became an overnight star. Nadler's piece opens with that famous patter song and then branches out to offer snippets of work by the listed composers (some household names, some obscure), tying their histories to other popular songs.

Minsk-born Vladimir Dukelsky, for example, would become Broadway's Vernon Duke, so that's a cue for Duke's "I Can't Get Started."

Nadler told that the show, foremost, was created as an entertainment — with comedy and melody — but it's also a rueful rumination on the nature of fame and a tribute to the connectedness of all songs and those who make them.

"We don't remember every person who put their souls on the lines — or the staves," he said, adding that this is a chance to pay homage to the forgotten.

Does Nadler offer bars of music from all 49 composers on the list? "Well," he admitted with a chuckle, "I give the illusion of doing every one of them. I found music by all but one."

Critics and fans of American popular song have embraced Tschaikowsky (and Other Russians) since its developmental debut in two sold-out performances at the Algonquin's Oak Room in 2002.

The show is about connecting the dots over many decades and many miles, Nadler suggested.

Frank Loesser's "The Ugly Duckling" surfaces in the show, in reference to Tschaikowsky, who famously felt like an outsider. Folded into that sequence is a melody from Tschaikowsky's Swan Lake — remember, the ugly duckling became a swan.

Linking music from different eras brings "emotional underpinning" to the mini-profiles of foreign composers that emerge in the 90-minute experience.

Composers as recent as Carol Hall and Adam Guettel are heard in the show, artfully illuminating the greats and lesser-greats that made Gershwin's list.

The creation of the piece required some sleuthing, Nadler said. It wasn't easy finding a piece by Kvoschinsky, for example.

Nadler said he and producer Alden are seeking one of Broadway's smaller houses for the Broadway run.

The next engagement of the show will be at Prince Music Theater's Morgans Cabaret in Philadelphia, Oct. 31-Nov. 11.

Here's how the Prince bills the show: "Mark Nadler triumphantly returns with Tschaikowsky (and Other Russians), inspired by the list of [49] composers spun into a song by Ira Gershwin and Kurt Weill that made Danny Kaye a star overnight in Lady in the Dark. Mark takes off from there, with a virtuosic whirlwind revealing secrets of the composers in a madcap, richly layered and ultimately deeply moving study of the fleeting foot of fame."

For the show, Nadler was awarded the 2003 Bistro Award for "Continuing To Raise the Standards of Cabaret Performance."

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