KT Sullivan


By William Wolf


I’ll long cherish the vision of KT Sullivan looking especially glamorous in her strapless wine-colored gown with glittering wine trim and shoes to match, seated on the piano and treating us with her exquisite soprano voice and intense feeling while interpreting lyrics in her new show at the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel (Sept. 23-Oct. 11) celebrating Jerome Kern. I have, of course, heard Sullivan on many other occasions, but this opening night performance was particularly accomplished.

The delightful entertainer has filtered anything extraneous from her performing. Yes, she occasionally makes a revealing comment or shares an anecdote, but she is all about straightforward singing and communicating to an audience the enjoyment she obviously takes from honestly interpreting the many numbers in her well-chosen, broad repertoire.

She also displays some nerve. “This is not done often by sopranos,” she informs us before launching into her soprano version of “Ol’ Man River,” for which Oscar Hammerstein II wrote the lyrics. Darned if the number doesn’t work for her, and for us.

Kern wrote with many fine lyricists. In the early part of her program she sang “Just Let Me Look at You” (lyrics by Dorothy Fields), “I’m Old Fashioned” (lyrics by Johnny Mercer)” and “Land Where the Good Songs Go” (P. G. Wodehouse). Taking two numbers for which Hammerstein II supplied the words, she built up power with “Don’t Ever Leave Me” and “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man of Mine.”

Sullivan titles her current show “All the Things You Are,” and she sang that Kern-Hammerstein song with much feeling. The lyrics of Dorothy Fields would seem to appeal to her, as she includes various Kern-Fields accomplishments in the program, such as “April Fooled Me,” “A Fine Romance,” and the upbeat “You Couldn’t Be Cuter.”

She had fun with the humorous “My Husband’s First Wife” (Irene Franklin), particularly enjoyable to those who knew her husband, Steve Downey, was in the room. On the other hand, when required Sullivan can be extremely delicate, as with “The Folks Who Live on the Hill” (Hammerstein II) and “The Last Time I Saw Paris” (also Hammerstein), a song with special meaning given its history in relation to the sadness of having contemplated Paris under the German occupation.

Sullivan can quickly switch moods and frolic with the offbeat number “Cleopatterer” (Wodehouse). Through it all—and there were numerous other songs brilliantly interpreted—Sullivan impressed as the ideal cabaret artist in peak form. Her smooth accompaniment consisted of Tedd Firth, musical director and pianist, Andy Farber on reeds and Steve Doyle on bass, with Eric Michael Gillett as director of the show. At the Oak Room, Algonquin Hotel, 59 West 44th Street, Reservations: 212-419-9331 or bmgurn@algonquinhotel,com.