Nellie McKay Pays Homage to Susan Hayward


You can’t say this has been done before:

A cabaret act called “I Want to Live!” in which the star plays Barbara Graham — the real-life death-row inmate portrayed by Susan Hayward in the 1958 movie — and recites actual dialogue from the film in between crooning classics like “April Showers” and “Body and Soul.”

But that’s what Nellie McKay is doing at Feinsteins at Loews Regency, and it’s pretty darned unique.

“Fresh out of reform school, Barbara Graham!” is how the velvet voiced McKay is announced onto the stage.

After the show, Nellie told me her mother thought up the act’s title “I Want to Live!” and Nellie ultimately went with the movie’s plot for the act.

(I love the title-first approach. I hope mom next thinks up “Valley of the Dolls” or “Smash-Up!”)

Nellie just adores digging into the hard-boiled-girl scrapbook for her shows.

She told me, “If I could be the poor man’s Susan Hayward, I’d be happy.”

I made a joke about the old-style references that we both apparently enjoy.

“Hey, maybe I should play an old folks home,” she laughed.

Then she added, “Actually, I did! And they said, ‘Shut up!’ and ‘What the fuck is this?’ “