Dancing in the Dark:
The Algonquin's Oak Room
KT's back and the Oak Room's got her.
KT Sullivan, jaunty and in charge, took the stage to salute to the songs of Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz. "A Shine on Your Shoes" shone with joy and optimism, her phrasing crisp, the energy building with Tedd Firth's chords behind her. To paraphrase Howard Dietz' last line, "What a wonderful way to start the show!"
Sullivan quipped, "This is the newer, older me." Newer is a voice stronger, more confident and more authoritative than ever. Older is a maturity with fresh interpretations and a high comfort level delivering them. One of the busiest performers in cabaret, Sullivan seems to be having a lot of fun these days, stretching her singing/acting/comic sides and aided here by the imaginative direction of Eric Michael Gillett.
The song pairings are ingenious; witness her wry, wide-eyed "Oh, But I Do" (lyric by Leo Robin) and sassy "Confession." Sullivan has an engaging way of smoothly dispensing just enough information. Dietz and Schwartz's most famous songs came from revues, and they wrote many of their songs for great stars.
Evident is how symbiotic pairings can illuminate each other, as with "Two-Faced Woman" from Torch Song, paired with "On the Other Hand." Sullivan also goes spot-on into Bette Davis mode with "They're Either Too Young or Too Old" (lyric by Frank Loesser), phrasing like Bette and ending with a BD movie star flourish.
"You and the Night and the Music," taken by soprano Sullivan down to a sensual throaty lower tone, was written for husky-voiced, Libby Holman. Sullivan cleverly trios this between a bemused, "A Rainy Night in
Sullivan takes her time persuading you that every state has something it is known for — "vests in Vest
Every song takes on a unique character. Heartbreaking is the loss that infuses "I See Your Face Before Me." Sullivan tells the story of Jack Buchanan's theater role in Between the Devil, where he is imprisoned, resigned to life alone, rendering "By Myself" a new darker, more hopeless aura. "Dancing in the Dark" evokes the yearning for love to brighten up the night. She tells how "Make the Man Love Me" (Dorothy Fields), written to be sung by a prostitute, and "The Love I Long For" (Vernon Duke), written for an ingénue, both reflect the same feelings of unworthiness.
The "newer, older" KT Sullivan is better than ever, and with musical director/pianist Tedd Firth with Steve Doyle on bass behind her —"That's Entertainment." Elizabeth Ahlfors
Cabaret Scenes March 23, 2009 www.cabaretscenes.org