KT Sullivan

Music Review | K T Sullivan

Small-Town Girl Makes Good, Laughing All the Way


Published: September 21, 2007

The journey from the sticks to the Broadway stage is a pilgrimage that has been made by countless performers. But no one in recent memory has turned it into the kind of thrill ride that the singer K T Sullivan makes of it in her new cabaret show, “Autumn in New York.”

 As she travels in song from her rural hometown, Boggy Depot, Okla., to Manhattan, Ms. Sullivan evokes the mythical distance between polar dream worlds. The naďve show-business hopeful who begins the journey is given voice by two songs from “The Fantasticks”: “Try to Remember,” in which she looks back wistfully, and “Much More,” in which she dreams of going to town “in a golden gown.” The sophisticated urban malcontent her alter ego recognizes but refuses to become is evoked in songs by Stephen Sondheim (“Who’s That Woman?”) and Noël Coward (“World Weary”). It is a persona Ms. Sullivan would rather laugh at than embrace.

“Autumn in New York” is Ms. Sullivan’s 10th appearance at the Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel and her first in several years without another singer by her side. With Tedd Firth on piano and Steve Doyle on bass, and directed by Eric Michael Gillett, this show is Ms. Sullivan’s great leap forward as a soloist.

Where most performers turn their show-business histories into self-serving tales of triumph leading to disillusion and finally to wisdom, Ms. Sullivan has no pretensions to being a sage. A sexy, wide-eyed comedian with a semi-operatic voice that is in the best shape I can remember, she is having a ball. Instead of sadder and wiser, she is happier and wiser.

An early segment covers Ms. Sullivan’s less-than-triumphant brushes with Broadway (she appeared in George Abbott’s “Broadway,” “The Threepenny Opera” with Sting, and “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”) and culminates with a cheerful reading of excerpts from “No Turn Unstoned,” a collection of damning theater reviews put together by Diana Rigg. The show’s centerpiece is Ms. Sullivan’s hilarious take on “World Weary,” which had me laughing out loud on Wednesday. “I want a horse and plow/Chickens too/Just one cow/With a wistful moo,” moans the self-pitying urban night crawler who narrates the song. You wonder what Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, today’s contemporary equivalents of Marie Antoinette playing a milkmaid, might make of it. Ms. Sullivan makes it sidesplitting.