Sunday, July 5, 2015


by Toby Zinman



by Toby Zinman

For the Inquirer

To hear Mark Nadler tell it in his cabaret act, I'm a Stranger Here Myself, the only point of the Weimar Republic was to provide gay men with a decadent Eden. But unlike the sexy, funny, edgy Kander and Ebb musical Cabaret, also about the Weimar Republic, this show at the Prince Music Theatre is cloying. Also boring. Also melodramatic. Also strident.

Nadler, a New York-based cabaret entertainer, tells us he is both gay and Jewish, and returns again and again to the theme of Nazi persecution of both Jews and homosexuals — complete with photos projected on the upstage wall (as though anyone in the audience might not have seen them before or heard of Dachau). The illustrations of louche, gay life, also projected, look like a parody. He accosts a man in the audience, evicting his wife from her chair and sitting on his lap.

He sings songs, some in German, some in French, some in English to evoke that era, those 14 years between the end of World War I and Hitler’s election as chancellor in 1933. Nadler gives us tedious and elementary history lessons, listing all the Jewish luminaries who escaped Germany and became major figures in world culture (also complete with photos): Albert Einstein, Thomas Mann, Billy Wilder, Wassily Kandinsky, Sigmund Freud, George Grosz, Arnold Schoenberg, Bruno Walter.

The musical armature of the show comprises songs by Kurt Weill, who wrote the title song (with lyrics, surprisingly by Ogden Nash) and another that is endlessly reprised, “J’Attends un Navire,” about waiting for a ship. Also overworked is the lyric, “I don't know who I belong to/ I believe I belong to myself, all alone!” which he applies to a variety of overwrought situations he describes.

Cabaret as an entertainment category is odd; it assumes a room, usually a chic supper club, where people eat and drink and the performer creates an intimacy with the audience, providing patter between songs. Nadler has to work against the room here, since the Prince is a conventional theatre and he's on a conventional stage, playing a grand piano and accompanied by Rosie Langabeer on accordion and Vena Johnson on violin.

There is no food or drink. And try though he mightily does, Nadler has neither a fine voice nor a quirky style, and is much too fond of showing off his fluency in German.


At the Prince Music Theatre, 1412 Chestnut St. Through April 12, 2014. Tickets $39.50-55.Information:(215) 972-1000 or

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About this blog

Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer where she reviews New York and London as well as Philadelphia. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of five books about modern and contemporary drama, and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). She was recently named by American Theatre magazine "one of the twelve most influential critics in America."

Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.

Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.

Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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