[ADELAIDE PREMIERE ~ USA ~ IF YOU LOVE… ALL THINGS SHINY]
Dunstan Playhouse, Sun 9 Jun.
There are many surprises worth preserving in Megan Mullally and Stephanie Hunt’s song and dance act, Nancy And Beth, but it’s no spoiler to reveal that it is expertly performed, laugh-out loud funny, and wildly entertaining. Over the course of an hour and a half, Nancy And Beth spans genres from hip-hop to jazz, country, folk, and gospel and doing remarkable justice to all. Mullally and Hunt combine stellar vocal harmonies with non-stop choreography, that is in equal parts both meticulous and ridiculous. The result is an utter delight…funny, engaging, and ultimately transcendent.
As noted in the Cabaret Festival synopsis, the between-song banter is largely improvised and frequently hilarious. A lot of love was shown to the Cabaret Festival, to Adelaide, and to the audience, with Mullally and Hunt demonstrating early and often that they’d say and do just about anything for a laugh.
The glue that binds this show together is outstanding musicianship, starting with Mullally and Hunt, whose vocals are nothing short of spectacular. They set out a daunting task, performing songs previously sung by the likes of Ethel Merman, Ruth Brown, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Tammy Wynette, Patty Griffin, and Gucci Mane. If they delivered their songs standing still, it still would have been fantastic, but they sang through all manner of dancing and posing – at times even upside-down – and never once appeared to expend much effort in doing so.
Given the breadth of the music being played, it helps that their band is outstanding, nailing every style required of them, often while switching instruments and providing backing vocals. Each player shines throughout the show. On guitar, Roy Williams delivers chugging rhythms and melodic jazz solos. Datri Bean occasionally steps away from the piano to play cornet when not singing backup. Petra Haden splits time between violin and backing vocals, and occasionally lead vocals. Meanwhile, bassist/vocalist Andrew Pressman and Drummer Joe Bernardi provide note perfect rhythms suited to every style.
Throughout the evening, Nancy and Beth’s five vocalists combine to deliver chorales fit for Radio City Music Hall or the Grand Ole Opry. Later in the show, comedy is gradually stripped away in favour of pure musical performance. It is truly special to be in the room and experience these songs being so faithfully rendered. As it nears the finish one cannot escape the feeling that Mullally and Hunt have used the trappings of a comedy show to showcase a love letter to American music, a lovely sort of bait and switch, and a perfect fit for the game Adelaide Cabaret Festival audience, who by the end are clapping along in thrall to the encore’s closing gospel singalong.
Megan Mullally And Her Band – Nancy And Beth continues at Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre, from 5pm until Mon 10 Jun.
Book at BASS on 131 246 and adelaidecabaretfestival.com.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.
Image by Alex Gorosh