Megan Mullally and her band Nancy And Beth @ Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide 10/6/2019

At the beginning of the show, a voice over announces, “Stephanie Hunt, Megan Mullally and their band Nancy And Beth”, which prompts the question: are they Nancy And Beth or is it the band as a whole? Billed as Megan Mullally and her band, Stephanie Hunt has been somewhat unfairly sidelined in the general promotional material obviously with regard to Megan’s higher media profile and this voice over actually redresses the bias, with Stephanie’s name placed first. They arrive in matching peach-coloured tracksuits over white Bauhaus (the band) shirts while the rest of the band are dressed uniformly in red coveralls. A few songs in, Megan mentions in passing, “I don’t know any of their names” and it is not until a little later that we are introduced to the band by an unannounced special guest.

Although mostly the front of stage seems stereoscopic with Stephanie and Megan performing near identical choreography and complementing twin vocals, Stephanie proves herself as an individual, a specific example being her role as Tammy Wynette’s daughter Tina in their hilarious rendition of the George & Tammy & Tina song No Charge which is subsequently described as “an adorable song about child abuse”. “What Adelaide loves the most is country music” we are told and we are reminded of this a couple of times through the show.

With a set list just obscure enough for an audience to think that there might at least a couple of original songs within it (there aren’t), some songs have been repurposed and made their own, one such song being Lou Rawls’ Fine Brown Frame. Much of the show is revolves around the use of two prop chairs upon and around which Megan and Stephanie conduct their idiosyncratic fine-honed choreographed danced routines. Fine Brown Frame is recontextualised and described as being about their relationship to these chairs ($39.95 from Walmart). This is one of several songs performed that suit the pair so perfectly you could be forgiven for thinking that they had composed it themselves.

Beyonce gets a passing mention more than once as they contrast her show with theirs, especially during a moment of “mood” lighting when a suggestion on how to use this time in complete darkness makes some of their more risqué stage moves seem tame.

In town earlier in the week doing his own show, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally’s husband, appears mid-set with a slightly deceptive set up to introduce the band like a compere, not introducing them with any relevant background information but instead comparing (or pairing) them with what Adelaide is second-best known for (after serial killers, apparently).

During the drawn out introductions to Datri Bean on keyboards, Joe Berardi on drums, Andrew Pressman on bass, Petra Haden on violin and vocals and finally Stephanie and Megan themselves (lying on their backs on stage during this portion of the show), guitarist Roy “Williams – son” (a mistake made by Nick that had Megan laughing for the remainder of the introductions) was singled out to be likened to one of Adelaide’s reputed serial killers. This is reportedly something Nick does differently for the band at every show.

This was followed by another song, this one actually about an inanimate object, My Walking Stick before they take a break from singing and let the band takeover completely for their mime performance during Mam’selle. Following the slow grind of I Can’t Sell It, Megan reveals that for the dance moves employed during the song they decided to bypass sexualised choreography and go directly to “gross” before the completely contrasting gospel of Waiting For My Child leads into the similarly veined Losing You with only piano and bass for accompaniment. The potentially misogynistic Gucci Lover song I Don’t Love Her includes Petra Haden’s suitably operatic vocal ending with Megan revealing, “That song was written by Gloria Steinem”. Please Mr Jailer and He Stopped Loving Her Today rounded off the set before the tradition of the encore that had been more than hinted at in the lead up to these last couple of songs.

For the first of these songs, Petra joins them front of stage to form a vocal trio for Patty Griffin’s Martin Luther King Jr. tribute Up To The Mountain with lyrics based on one of speeches. Saved is the final song of the night and during the ascent into musical bombast Nick Offerman reappears to participate almost comedically by playing a marching band bass drum while Stephanie and Megan enter the audience and the performance has somehow been transformed into religious church-like experience, the audience gradually rising in their entirety like a congregation moved in rapturous appreciation before the show comes to a suitable close after more than an hour and a half.

Live review by Jason Leigh

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