REVIEW – Nick Offerman ‘Full Bush’, State Theatre, Sydney

bushI’m a big fan of Nick Offerman, who most people know as the indomitable Ron Swanson on TV’s Parks and Recreation. As well as his most famous character I’ve seen and enjoyed his roles of varying length in many films and shows, I’ve read his written material and I genuinely enjoy his outlook on life.

I was a little disappointed upon reading that his wife, Megan Mullally, had cancelled her appearance as one half of their double-billed ‘Summer of 69 – No Apostrophe’ show that was set to tour the country – but hey, Offerman is an established actor with theatre chops who’s toured a host of his own shows around the USA, so I was still keen.

Full Bush is an ode from Offerman to the many, bushy aspects of life that we all share ‑ from the hair in our nether regions to survivalism and the reckless approach to life of a former US President with the same name. While I don’t agree with some of this thoughts on pubic maintenance, and it was also hard to take from a man who is renowned for facial hair but stood before us without any, it’s still a great premise and served as a strong undercurrent to the performance.

Much of the show is musical, and there were a plethora of standout songs, including the little Hawaiian ditty about (and played on) his own hand-made ukulele, an outstanding ode to the shit we all see every day on Facebook – you might think ‘yawn’ but it was very well done ‑ and a tragic love song to Siri. You could tell that Offerman had also written new material specifically for his Australian audience, with a hilarious song about Australia and New Zealand particularly memorable.

Not all of the songs resounded, though. Some felt about a verse too long, and others just seemed out of place. The song dedicated to his absent wife, for example, was inarguably beautiful but didn’t really fit in with the flow of the show.

And I think that was a problem throughout. At times the structure was missing and it almost felt like we were watching a rehearsal, not helped by the fact that the music stand in front of him seemed to not only contain the chords/lyrics for songs but many of the talking points and perhaps even sentences worth. Admittedly I was up the back and couldn’t really see his eyes, but much of the material felt recited rather than performed.

There were bits like his rant on gadgets and social media and his healthy mix of contempt and tolerance for them where he really hit his stride, with great delivery, hilarious moments and well-rounded resounding truths, but these parts made the weak bits seem even more out of place. His music was much the same, as his guitar playing and vocals varied in quality from track to track.

After what seemed like a wonderfully appropriate closer leaving us all with a message we could all take home about not being a dick, Offerman surprised the crowd with a rendition of ‘5000 Candles in the Wind’ from Parks and Rec, originally performed by now-megastar Chris Pratt. Sure, it’s a nice song, and an earworm and a half, but it disappointed me personally as we’d just been left with a song that epitomised Offerman as an individual, and instead were left with a song that epitomised Offerman as ‘that guy from that show’.

And throughout all of it, THERE WAS NO SAXOPHONE! I’m not saying it needed to be a key component of the show but I know for a fact he’d played some on Sydney radio the night before.

Did Full Bush live up to expectation? In some ways, yes – I heard some awesome songs and thoughts on life from a verbose and well-spoken individual with a velvet voice, which was much of what I was expecting. But unlike the fine glasses of single malt whiskey and medium rare meat the man epitomises, there were parts of the show that didn’t quite hit the spot. I’m still a fan of Nick Offerman, I’ll still buy his book and subscribe to his beliefs about life, but I can’t help thinking just how much more amazing the night would have been if Mullally hadn’t withdrawn a few months ago.

Damn you, Hollywood.

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