By William Wolf
KT SULLIVAN TOPS AT ALGONQUIN
If you think you’ve heard the song “Dancing in the Dark” before, you haven’t. Well, not at least until you’ve heard KT Sullivan sing it. Her rendition is an accomplishment of rare beauty and grace, a melodious, smoky communication that invites attention to each note and syllable that she caresses. Fittingly, “Dancing in the Dark” is the theme of her current re-visit to the Oak Room (March 24-April 11, 2009) in which she celebrates the team of Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz, and “friends.”
There is also a mischievously playful side to Sullivan, as when she takes “They’re Either Too Young or Too Old” (this lyric by Frank Loesser) and delivers with a letter perfect imitation of Bette Davis singing it. Sullivan not only nails the voice but gets expressions and mannerisms as well, yet not in a broad sense but in a triumph of subtlety. When she sings “Paree,” she does it with an amusingly exaggerated French accent in a Beatrice Lillie comic mode.
Having followed Sullivan for some time now, I can report a steady progression of sophistication in her ability to combine her superb command of her gorgeous light-operatic voice with the necessities of entertaining a night club audience. She has a good sense of just how much story background to add, although I wish that in her commendable creation of intimacy with the information imparted she would slow down and enunciate more sharply at times. With each new booking Sullivan includes numbers that offer her fresh challenges. The result in this particular engagement is an especially high level of achievement. The show is simply sublime and to be heartily recommended for her fans as well as for those who have yet to belatedly make the pleasure of her musical acquaintance.
While most of what Sullivan sings this trip reflects the teamwork of Dietz and Schwartz, she notes when there is another combination. Her “Oh, But I Do” has lyrics by Leo Robin, and “The Laughing Song,” in which she reaches the requisite high notes in grand style, has music, of course, by Johann Strauss. “Lovely” has music by Bart Howard, “This Is It” and “Make the Man Love Me” have lyrics by Dorothy Fields, with “The Love I Long For” having music by Vernon Duke. All’s fair as long as she IDs the “friends,” which she meticulously does.
There are abundant highs in her current performance, including her “New Sun in the Sky,” “A Shine on My Shoes,” “Two faced Woman,” “On the Other Hand,” “By Myself,” “I See Your Face Before Me” and a spirited “That’s Entertainment” encore. You have through April 11 to savor this ultra satisfying performance, impressively abetted by musical director/pianist Ted Firth with Steve Doyle’s expertise on bass and direction by Eric Michael Gillett.