KT Sullivan & Mark Nadler


Wed., Sep. 7, 2005, 4:48pm PT
KT Sullivan and Mark Nadler
(Oak Room, Algonquin Hotel; 85 capacity; $50)

Presented inhouse. Opened, reviewed Sept. 6, 2005. Runs through Sept 24.
Performers: KT Sullivan, Mark Nadler.



Manhattan's cabaret season kicks off with a 25th-anniversary fete for the Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel and a centennial salute to lyricist Dorothy Fields. The hour is a saucy, romantic musical portrait of a master wordsmith, performed with obvious affection by winning Gotham warblers KT Sullivan and Mark Nadler.

Fields penned lyrics for popular songs during Broadway's golden age and for Hollywood's great song-and-dance musicals. The daughter of vaudevillian and producer Lew Fields and the sister of Broadway librettist Herbert Fields, she collaborated with the royalty of composers, including Jerome Kern, Jimmy McHugh, Cy Coleman, Burton Lane and Arthur Schwartz. She triumphed for six decades in a musical terrain dominated by men.

Sullivan and Nadler -- who have previously teamed for song salutes to the Gershwins, Irving Berlin and Stephen Sondheim -- are attuned to the Fields legacy. The pair echo the old vaudeville tradition of such pairings as Blossom Seeley and Benny Fields or Nora Bayes and Jack Norworth, or as the kind of showbiz darlings immortalized by Betty Grable and Dan Dailey in classic Fox Technicolor musicals.

Sullivan is a stately honey blonde with a silvery soprano voice who personifies one of Fields' classic songs, "Lovely to Look At," and turns the rarely heard "Don't Blame Me" into a sweetly gushing confessional. She also mines the devilish humor of "He Had Refinement" from "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn."

But if there is one shining moment, it is "Remind Me," a Kern-Fields collaboration once the exclusive property of cabaret doyenne Mabel Mercer. Sullivan reveals the subtle grandeur and plaintive core of Fields' torchy recollection of a fragile relationship, despite the "efforts to forget."

Nadler, an engaging troubadour and accomplished pianist, offers a poetically fervent reading of "The Way You Look Tonight," turns a flapper-flavored "Digga Digga Doo" into a tender love song and, to define his exuberant expression of amour, sings "I'm in the Mood for Love" with the breathlessly rushed phrasing of an impatient youth.

Nadler even managed to offer a bit of the ol' soft shoe as he accompanied Sullivan's declaration of Charity's new world, "If My Friends Could See Me Now."