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.”

Skip to next paragraph 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 naïve 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  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.




Sullivan Shines

by Rex Reed Published: October 5, 2007

Tags: Arts & Culture, KT Sullivan

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With Eartha Kitt meowing her way through a fresh batch of catnip at The Carlyle, Tammy Grimes and the legendary Marilyn Maye back at the Metropolitan Room, and jazz icon Mark Murphy at the Iridium, the fall cabaret scene is off to a rousing start. For maximum joy, focus on KT (no periods, period) Sullivan at the august Algonquin's Oak Room (through Oct. 13). Larky and luscious as ever, she's also singing better. This is her 10th engagement here, and one of her rare solos. This is as it should be. She doesn't' need a musical partner. In fact, she's more confident and polished on her own, and her repertoire has fewer limitations. O.K., they give her act a title that looks good on a poster, but "Autumn in New York" is nothing more than excuse to unveil a whole new batch of exquisite and often overlooked songs from Broadway musicals. If you want to get technical, they all started life when the New York theater did—in the autumn of the year. But I don't care if they opened on Easter Sunday. They're all worth hearing again, as long as KT Sullivan sings them. Insouciant, effervescent and bubbly as Veuve Clicquot, KT sashays her way through "I'm Just a Little Girl From Little Rock" channeling Carol Channing and Marilyn Monroe. When she did Noël Coward's "World Weary," all I could think of was a tongue-in-cheek Mae West. On a gorgeous arrangement of "And I was Beautiful," an obscure treasure Jerry Herman wrote for Angela Lansbury in Dear World, she lights the night with her special brand of internal neon. Taking the ultimate showbiz survivor's anthem, Irving Berlin's "There's No Business Like Show Business," at a slower pace than usual, she gets to the subtext of a song that defines an entire way of life. And in between, she crowds the playbill with one surprise after another, unlocking the keyholes of Sondheim, Brecht, Porter, Rogers and Hart, Jule Styne, Kurt Weill, Lerner and Lowe, Vernon Duke, and more—up to and including new emeralds from scores as fresh in the memory as The Light in the Piazza and Grey Gardens. Accompanied by the first-rate Tedd Firth on piano and bassist Steve Doyle, her arrangements are as unexpected and delightful as her witty repartee. She still bares the historic poitrine of Lillian Russell, but KT sounds dreamier than before, her lust for life and sense of humor are keener, and she's learned a lot about phrasing. This is a girl with uncompromising taste, so if you're looking for something from Avenue Q, Legally Blonde, or Andrew Fucking Lloyd Webber, keep moving. For everyone else: run don't walk to spend some valuable time with a delectable doll from Oklahoma who seems as much a part of Manhattan after dark as an opening night Broadway marquee. Watching KT Sullivan reminded me of that great line Burt Lancaster aimed at the smarmy Tony Curtis in Sweet Smell of Success: "I'd hate to take a bite out of you—you're a cookie full of arsenic." KT Sullivan is just the opposite. She's still a cookie—but delicious enough to eat.




              David Finkle


KT Sullivan in ‘Autumn in New York’ at the Oak Room at the  Algonquin

Halfway through KT Sullivan’s solo return to the Oak Room at the Regency, I began to wonder whether she has ever considered reviving Anna Russell’s Ring cycle send-up. I was not musing about this because I would rather have been watching a Russell reiteration. Not at all. I loved every minute of Sullivan’s Autumn in New York program, which has been directed with utmost taste and humor by Eric Michael Gillett. Indeed, as she was gliding through her immaculately selected numbers, I was hoping she’d go on for hours—perhaps eventually getting to a sung-through rendition of the Manhattan phone book.

Why the glorious Anna Russell came to me is because there are so few genuinely funny sopranos around at any given time. (Goodbye again, Madeline Kahn.) Sullivan is funny because she understates whatever she does with admirable control and a droll gaze. It’s as if she knows how gifted she is and understands she only has to do so much to display those gifts—among which, by the way, is the creamiest complexion this side of a moisturizer laboratory.

Yet, while Mae-West-blends-with-Kim-Novak Sullivan keeps the wry moues and gestures coming throughout Noël Coward’s “World Weary” and Michael Feingold’s translation of the Kurt Weill–Bertolt Brecht “Barbara Song,” she also gives profound meaning to somber items like Adam Guettel’s devastating “Dividing Day.” The pained, confused expression she’s caught with at threnody’s end is worth the admission price. There is a theme here, and it’s a valuable one about relishing life as a woman on the far side of 30. Mining that theme, Sullivan needn’t change a thing.





New curtains rising on Broadway and off
By Robert Osborne
Oct 2, 2007

Meanwhile, anyone looking for an exceptional night out on the town right now should make a beeline to the Oak Room of the Algonquin to see and hear KT Sullivan delivering one of the best cabaret performances in many a moon. KT's someone whose kewpie doll looks, nifty voice and twinkling humor have for years, and countless outings, been a welcome addition to the town's talent parade, but something's different and unusually attractive about her this time. "I'm not a girl anymore," she says as a toss-away line at one point, and indeed, that may be the key to this new, reinvented Sullivan. She is in better voice and more self-assured than before, no longer a boop-oop-a-doop ingenue but a bona fide, womanly entertainer of many dimensions, with a great sense of both fun and maturity that makes her particularly magnetic. (It's doubtful anyone gets a bigger kick out of doing what she does than this lady.) This current Algonquin turn show is a definite standout, not only making great use of Sullivan but also songs by Berlin, Sondheim, Coward, Porter and others as well as words culled from Dame Diana Rigg's witty 1982 book of theatrical pans "No Turn Unstoned." Kudos also to her musical director Tedd Firth, director Eric Michael Gillett and bass Steve Doyle.



By William Wolf

September 21, 2007


Some singers excel with their voices. Some get by on personality. Others shine in lyric interpretation. The delightful KT Sulllivan touches all the bases with high style, her attributes on compelling display in her new “Autumn in New York” show in the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel (Sept. 18-Oct. 13, 2007). Sullivan is a sparkling entertainer, building an easy rapport with her audience and seeming totally at ease and in full at command as she dispenses a huge measure of pleasure with her repertoire and personality.

For starters, her voice is the real thing. It is lovely and well-trained, as evidenced, for example, in her elegant rendition of “Falling in Love with Love” from the Rodgers and Hart show “The Boys from Syracuse.” But there is also a playful side to Sullivan, enabling her to have some fun with “Do I Hear a Waltz?” from the Rodgers and Sondheim show of the same title. She can be sassy with her “I’m Just a Little Girl from Little Rock” from the Styne/Robin “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” or tender and lyrical with Kander and Ebb’s “Colored Lights” from “The Rink.”

Sullivan looks extremely attractive, and on the night I attended she was wearing a bare-shouldered dark red gown that matched the sophisticated tone of her act. There’s a twinkle to her approach to some of the music and to her audience. She has a great time with “Well of All the Rotten Shows” from Irving Berlin’s “Face the Music,” interspersing reading of a collection of renowned critics’ put-downs, many of them hilarious. Her delivery is letter-perfect.

Her rendition of “Barbara Song” from Weill and Brecht’s “The Threepenny Opera” is much different than interpretations heard from others. Sullivan accents the beauty of the music combined with the dramatic friskiness of the lyrics. One observes from this go-around that she is broadening her territory, and also maturing as a solo artist. Sullivan has a grab bag of references to clue the audience into where she is coming from, and she introduces celebrities in the crowd with what appears to be genuine welcoming rather than perfunctory ritual.

Among other numbers culled from musical theater are “Try to Remember” and “Much More” from “The Fantasticks,” “Another Autumn” from “Paint Your Wagon,” “And I Was Beautiful” from “Dear World,” “But Alive” from “Applause” and “September Song” from “Knickerbocker Holiday,” all of which provide an idea of how extensive Sullivan’s range is and how she deftly mixes styles. At the Algonquin Hotel, 59 West 44th Street.


KT Sullivan

Autumn in New York

Algonquin's Oak Room

Autumn, spring, whenever, there is no doubt that KT Sullivan loves what she is doing. Every detail shines with care, her gowns, her accompanists, and her delivery of songs. Listen to her medley of Another Op'ning', Another Show and There's No Business Like Show Business. Show biz may not be easy -- "you're broken hearted but you go on " -- but with Sullivan, you believe her when she sings, "You wouldn't change it for a sack of gold."

This feeling of being exactly where she wants to be at this stage of her life ruminates through Autumn in New York, KT Sullivan's tenth show at the Algonquin Oak Room. This time Sullivan is solo, backed by Tedd Firth on piano and Steve Doyle on bass. She chooses a generous selection of theatre songs, some she performed on the big stage, others add to the tale of just a little girl from Boggy Depot who lands on the New York stage. Although Sullivan keeps patter to a minimum, she is inspired enough by the sentiment in Irving Berlin's Well of All the Rotten Shows (Face the Music), to include a light-hearted reading of unflattering theatre reviews from No Turn Unstoned.

Sullivan mingles witty and sparkling tunes with older and wiser, brought to a peak with Noel Coward's World Weary. Her enunciation is clear, her soprano voice clear, and her interpretations well thought through. She includes lovely melodic tunes like Will You? by Frankel and Korie from Grey Gardens, Adam Guettel's Dividing Day from The Light in the Piazza, and Jerry Herman's poignant And I Was Beautiful, from Dear World. Colored Lights (Kander/Ebb) from The Rink and Try to Remember (The Fantasticks by Schmidt/Jones) evoke nostalgia with a mere twinge of lament. From Threepenny Opera by Weill and Brecht, Sullivan takes on the gritty lyrics and realism of Barbara Song. She is spirited with Who's That Woman?, Sondheim's Follies' rueful recognition of passing years and has fun with a song cut from Applause by Strouse and Adams, called Smashing New York Times. September Song by Weill and Anderson, is just facing Life.

Regret has hardly a role in Autumn in New York. Sullivan has an upbeat, driving energy that does not wallow in sentimentality, and Eric Michael Gillett directed a show that illuminates the Sullivan spirit for music and performing.

 Elizabeth Ahlfors
Cabaret Scenes


NEXT magazine

By David Hurst


Luscious KT Sullivan is bringing Autumn in New York to The Oak Room, both metaphorically and literally, in a new solo show that finds this dazzling chanteuse at the zenith of her powers. With a lovely collection of songs and a self-deprecating analysis of her Broadway career to date, Sullivan finds the perfect tone: reflective but wry, sincere yet sardonic. In other words, very autumnal. It's an intoxicating combination, and Sullivan is a severely underrated actress. Just listen to what she does to "Barbara Song" from The Threepenny Opera or "Who's that Woman?" from Follies. She makes each song a brilliant three-act play before launching into a cataclysmically funny rendition of Noel Coward's "World Weary" succeeded by a dazzling tour-de-force of "One Halloween/But Alive" from Applause. Autumn in New York is cabaret at its glorious best!