CABARET SCENES REVIEW - SEPTEMBER 16, 2003
KT Sullivan and Mark Nadler
The Love Story Of IRVING BERLIN
It was a spectacular night for cabaret. The simultaneous debut of New Yorkís newest downtown cabaret room, Mama Rose's, and its presentation of the Manhattan debut of KT Sullivanís and Mark Nadlerís extraordinary new show, ALWAYS: The Love Story Of Irving Berlin In an emotion filled two act set, the duo not only illuminated the magnificence of Berlinís tunes, their astonishing variety and the timeless quality of the lyrics, they brilliantly integrated dozens of Berlinís songs, both well known and barely known, into a musical recounting of the long term romance of the composer and his wife, Ellin Mackay.
KT and Mark are well established as an eminently successful musical pairing, with Nadlerís madcap antics and brilliance at the keyboard offering a charming counterpoint to Sullivanís wonderfully expressive presence and alluring soprano voice. Their earlier show dedicated to the music of the Gershwins won appropriate kudos and played to appreciative audiences from one coast to the other. But as fine a show as it was, it now seems a stepping stone to the sheer brilliance of the conception and execution of ALWAYS. Nadler revealed a new depth to his performing both as a singer and an actor, while KT was never more captivating, whether rendering with Mark the joyous Blue Skies or his touching arrangement of the title song, The Song is Ended. KTís skillful comic flair found its happy expression in Iím a Dumbbell and With a Family Reputation.
Parrying back and forth both the narration and the vocalizing, KT and Mark wove an absorbing tale, from the arrival in the U.S. of the five year old Israel Baline (who would change his name to Berlin only after his first published song suffered the error on the sheet music) to his private celebration of his hundredth birthday at home with his wife, with such a fluid grace that the interplay of biography and song sounds almost as if Berlin himself had written the book and created a new Broadway musical.
Although Nadler and Sullivan could play this show in a back alley and win accolades, the new Mama Rose offered them a handsome platform, with a mélange of musical memorabilia serving as wall decoration, and a lighting system designed by Bobby Kneeland plus a gratifying sound system designed by Damian Conti, both well handled on opening night by Jean Paul Perreaux.Alas, ALWAYS was scheduled only for the two performances at Mama Rose. My suggestion: Everyone call the new roomís booking manager, Lennie Watts, and make a clamor. Tell him, ďBring them back! We want more!Ē ------------------------- PETER LEAVEY