THE NEW YORK OBSERVOR February 16, 2005
Funny Girl by REX REED
KT Sullivan and Mark Nadler have pooled their considerable talents again in Everything’s Coming Up Roses, a new cabaret act at the fabled Oak Room in the Algonquin Hotel that continues to warm and charm through Feb. 26. This time they’ve added Jule Styne to the list of legendary composers they have honored from coast to coast. Everything fits. She’s Lillian Russell in space shoes. He’s a cross between Danny Kaye and Chico Marx. Together, they create their own special elixir of musical mayhem. Satisfaction is guaranteed. In the dour cold of a Manhattan winter, that ain’t gefilte.
Unlike all those other girl singers who refuse to learn new songs, bubbly blond Floradora girl KT has devoted most of her adult life since she left Boggy Depot, Okla., to learning them all. She can croon "Never Never Land" from Peter Pan or knock the wind out of your sails with the showstoppers that Mr. Styne penned for Judy Holliday in Bells Are Ringing with equal skill and spruce. Mr. Nadler, who used to be merely an entertaining musical wacko, has gained so much self-assurance since he first started performing in New York bars that now, when he calms down long enough to sing a ballad, he can startle and touch you with the beauty of his husky lower register in a slow tempo like "Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend." Surprisingly, he tackles Lorelei Lee’s anthem for gold diggers everywhere, singing it as the tragic lament of a man who knows what kind of Tiffany rocks lead the way to a girl’s heart, but painfully aware that he can’t afford them. Sometimes he doesn’t even have to open his mouth. From the Scott Joplin–inspired ragtime piano on "Sunday," one of Mr. Styne’s earliest Tin Pan Alley tunes, to the gorgeous but seldom-heard love theme from the final, ill-fated Jule Styne show, The Red Shoes, Mr. Nadler is a whiz at the keyboard, too. Talk about longevity. With their two voices, her feathers and his piano, they can take this act to the moon and save money.
Their styles may be different, but they have only one goal—pure, no-frills entertainment. They love music, they think alike, their patter is so grafted along the same lines that they sometimes say the same words at the same time, and they adore the legends who wrote the American Song Book. God help us if they ever move to Vegas. Whatever would they do with a chorus line of naked dancers in spurs? In an intimate space like the Oak Room, they do what they do best, and the audience reaps the benefits. He still taps sitting down, but he’s grown suave and dapper on "The People in My Life," while she gets "People," the Streisand signature song that the producers of Funny Girl wanted to delete from the pre-Broadway tour. No ordinary girl singer would have the nerve to sing that one, but KT bravely makes it her own. She is one of the few ladies on the contemporary New York scene who would look right at home in a bustle. When Jule Styne died at 88, his wife Margaret said, "He just ran out of keys." Fortunately, KT Sullivan and Mark Nadler have found them again, along with a few lost chords of their own, and are keeping the great man’s reputation alive and swinging at the Algonquin with a simple strategy Jule Styne would heartily applaud: "Learn all the songs, and then sing out, Louise!"