There are some popular melodies you can’t listen to without hearing their lyrics in your head. Start humming “Embraceable You,” “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” – the words come fast and fondly to mind. Behind them is the craft of Ira Gershwin – newly illuminated in a charming, moving and zestful one-man show by Mark Nadler, presented at the Metropolitan Room.
Ira Gershwin, early in his career, was overshadowed by his younger brother, George. After George’s death, Ira went on to new success, writing with Burton Lane, Jerome Kern, Vernon Duke, Kurt Weill, and, capping his career, with Harold Arlen on “The Man That Got Away.”
Mark Nadler, whom no one overshadows, has created an engaging, warm-hearted tribute to Ira’s career and craftsmanship. In his first all-new solo show in several years, a mellower Mark has let the clown cap slip (well, he still does a brief tap dance while playing the piano), and focuses instead on the clarity, emotional content, imagery and great internal rhyming of Gershwin’s lyrics. In addition, as a through-line, he traces the evolution of one song which began as something called “Midnight Madness” and wound up as … you’ll see.
The show is far from a static man-at-a-piano presentation: as Mark speaks and sings, the stage lighting subtly changes in color and intensity, thanks to the talent of tech director Michael Barbieri. At one point, too, Mark leaves the piano, crosses to the other side of the stage, and simply chats, unmiked, with the audience.
But it’s the music and the lyrics that make the show, numbers such as “Love Is Sweeping the Country,” “Fascinating Rhythm, “This Is New” and “Long Ago and Far Away” – songs that, in Mark’s hands, make this a gem of an evening.
The show’s title? It was a blooper by a British announcer, introducing the music of the two Gershwins, George and …