I've loved McKay since her freakishly accomplished debut record Get Away From Me (think Stephin Merritt meets Doris Day in a twisted city girl's fever dreams) but it was seeing her performance in the 2006 Broadway revival of Threepenny Opera that kicked my appreciation up to another level. Perfectly blending Old Hollywood-earnestness with postmodern irony so subtle it was spooky, McKay lit up the stage in her own great and weird way, and won the Theatre World Award for Outstanding Debut Performance.
Now, she's taking the stage with her own one-woman musical, devoted to the life and death of Barbara Graham, the convicted murderer executed in California in 1955. Here's what the New York Times had to say about the NYC run of I Want to Live!:
“The show [is] a brilliant, zany film-noir musical biography of Barbara Graham, a convicted murderer who was the third woman to die in the gas chamber in California (at San Quentin) in 1955.....“I Want to Live!” combines Ms. McKay’s virtually unlimited gifts as a singer, songwriter, actress, pianist, ukulele player, mimic, satirist and comedian into a show that is much deeper than its surface might suggest. Directly or indirectly, the songs, which come from here and there and include three originals, address America’s post-crash economic woes with references to crime and the Great Depression. In the most lighthearted way they evoke a heartless environment of social injustice in which people who fall through the cracks are invisible to everyone else.
Tickets to Saturday's performance of Nellie McKay's I Want to Live! are available here.