“…this bewitching pixie of a performer, who can sound like Doris Day one minute and Anita O’Day the next, plays an equal partner in this variety show, singing her own slyly funny compositions, accompanied by a slick four-person band….Ms. McKay’s contributions make delightful, palate-clearing diversions, but they are not just soothing musical interludes allowing us to rest sore belly muscles. They have their own piquancy and, on occasion, sweetly savage wit.”
- Charles Isherwood, The New York Times
“Girl wonder Nellie McKay takes care of the vocals, delivering bouncy songs that contain little time bombs of bitterly ironic humor.”
- Marilyn Stasio, Variety
“…singer Nellie McKay, whose poniard lyrics are sheathed in velvet melodies, is a brilliant addition.”
- Jeremy Gerard, Bloomberg News
“It’s a treat to hear McKay, looking demure under puffy blond hair, sweetly croon lines like “If we part I’ll eat your heart/So won’t you please be nice.”
- Elizabeth Vincentelli, New York Post
“When Irwin and Shiner are offstage, making quick costume changes, McKay sings some of her offbeat songs with a band sometimes she’s playing piano, sometimes her ukulele. “And she’s totally wacky and incredibly smart,” Irwin says of McKay. “I mean her songs, her lyrics, her music is so smart in the milieu of the wacky blond. So it is a wild mix.”
- Jeff Lunden, NPR All Things Considered
“4 out of 5 stars…Clowning at this level is already an amalgam of comedy, theater and dance; here it is also boosted by a constant flow of music from a terrific band of five, led by the subversively chipper singer-songwriter Nellie McKay. Between bits and bouts of clowning, McKay performs many of her own songs, spiking Old Hats’ punch with her unique brand of retromodern wit.”
- Adam Feldman, Time Out New York
“As always, her cabaret-naif act is superb and surprising, all peaches, cream, and then – just when you’re not anticipating it – a shot of something bitingly high-proof.”
- Alan Scherstuhl, Village Voice
“If Nellie McKay did not already exist, Bill Irwin and David Shiner would have had to make her up for their delirious joy of a show, “Old Hats.” The slinky and game singer/satirist is that good a fit with these irresistible masters of new/old existential baggy-pants vaudeville. As for the fellows, well, it isn’t much of a stretch to believe they actually could pull McKay — and her upright piano and her shark brain and that flower in her yellow hair — out of one of their magician hats or their clown trunk.”
- Linda Winer, Newsday
“their latest series of comedy shorts feels just as classic, drawing on silent-film-era slapstick, sad-hobo mime acts, and Cole Porter-style ballads (played live by the vaudeville-inspired singer-songwriter Nellie McKay…)”
- Melissa Maerz, Entertainment Weekly
“composer–musical director–instrumentalist McKay performs beguiling jazz, country, and rock songs between the Irwin and Shiner routines and grows more integrated into their acts as the evening progresses. A petite, wavy-haired blonde, McKay is an endearing entertainer and a brilliantly sly artist. She sings in dulcet tones and speaks in a naive voice that feels modeled after a young Judy Garland, but the content of her dialogue and lyrics is sharply satiric. Strumming on a ukulele, she sweetly sings of how “feminists don’t have a sense of humor,” detailing how unable they are to laugh about such things as rape and unequal pay.”
– Lisa Jo Sagolla, Backstage
“McKay must have been genetically engineered under an oyster shell in New Orleans’ Frenchman St before being released into the wild… a bizarre sense of busker authenticity about the singer-songwriter, who fits perfectly into OLD HATS vaudeville vibe.. McKay’s work is witty, bright, and gloriously inappropriate.”
- Kimberly Kaye, Theatremania.com
“..McKay gives off the dual vibe of old and new simultaneously. She is at once Judy Garland, Diana Krall, Weird Al and Jenny Lewis… she feeds you honey laced with razor blades… beautifully authentic and luminous.”
- Jason Rost, Theatre Is Easy
“…musical composer Nellie McKay steals the spotlight (and most of the laughs) with her sharply tongue-in-cheek tunes.. an endearing, multi-faceted performance artist.. combined charm and biting wit..”
– Jan Rosenberg, Show Business Weekly
“..McKay really shines when she’s center stage, talking to Irwin and Shiner in her Judy Garland-style lilt, effortlessy playing the piano, or shuffling off to Buffalo in a charming tap routine… clearly due for another walk on the boards.. preferably in a musical that includes her songs!”
– Lindsay Champion, Broadway.com
By Neil Shurley, Greenville Online
It’s hard to describe Nellie McKay. She can be bitingly sarcastic and sweetly nostalgic. She plays the piano and ukulele and has a fantastic voice that can casually flip between guttural asides and frilly trills within the same song. And last night she played her unique cabaret show to a sold-out crowd at Genevieve’s, the new theater lounge at the Peace Center.
With its high ceilings, chic sofas and Reedy River view, Genevieve’s proved to be a perfect venue for a cabaret performer like McKay. It’s both intimate and showy, boasting a modern, urban feel that fit well with McKay’s New York City vibe.
By Jon Bream, Star Tribune
A few thoughts after seeing Nellie McKay, the New York cabaret star, once again at the Dakota Jazz Club on Monday. Her two-night stand closes on Tuesday, with a 7 p.m. performance.
• She and Bettye LaVette are the only Dakota out-of-town regulars whom I see during every one of their engagements.
• She’s witty, silly, goofy, corny and hilarious. She uses humor to disarm the audience when things get too heavy, too serious, too political.
• She always manages to get political. Not just with feminism and social issues but attacking both Bachmann and Obama – with humor, of course.
Would You Like to Feel Sublime?
By Joe Swift
One of my favorite albums of this century, twelve years in, is “Get Away From Me,” the 2004 debut from singer/songwriter/keyboardist Nellie McKay. Uniquely for a first album, it was a double CD. What ties together the mix of pop and rap and cabaret and more is McKay’s good humor and intelligence. Playful both lyrically and musically, GAFM holds up well today.
Speaking of interpretations, I try to avoid asking musicians what their songs “mean,” as I feel that the best songs mean different things to different people – including the songwriter. Also, it would be like asking a comedian to explain a joke – it’s either funny or it isn’t. A song either works for you or it doesn’t.