KT Sullivan & Mark Nadler

 VILLAGE VOICE

 

The Sound of the City

November 15 - 21, 2000

Waxing Rhapsodic

If the times shape the great artist and, simultaneously, the great artist shapes the times, George Gershwin represents more of the glory, expansiveness, and ominous insouciance of the 1920s than his peers. Entranced by how composing might reflect American diversity, Gershwin was too hyperactive to confine himself to a single arena. He would go to one of his pianos (he had two next to each other in the East Side duplex he occupied for a while) and out sprayed popular songs, Broadway scores, symphonies, and the opera Porgy and Bess in no particular order but all dazzling as geysers.

Mark Nadler, one half of the American Rhapsody duo tributing Gershwin at Triad, doesn't look like his subject at first glance, but the longer he sits at the keyboard or cavorts near it, the more he resembles Gershwin in the angles of his profile and in the breadth of his skills. Perhaps nearly as compulsively inventive and certainly as Jewish, Nadler mines every facet of Gershwin's output. In formal wear and with hair brilliantined, he turns a swingy rendition of " 'S Wonderful" into a serious examination of the meandering, romantic, jazzy "Rhapsody in Blue," and then resumes singing the hit song while playing the rhapsody. He offers a gleeful version of "Slap That Bass" and quits the 88's to slap that piano while tap-dancing (choreography by Donald Saddler) around it.

Nadler is joined by KT Sullivan, with whom he's teamed at least as long as Gershwin pals Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers did. Of the latter pair, it was said she gave him sex and he gave her class. What Nadler and Sullivan give each other is the latitude to be as silly or introspective as the moment demands. Nadler is the properly retiring accompanist when Sullivan (Jazz Age-outfitted) delivers a mocking "Blah, Blah, Blah" (lyrics by Ira Gershwin) or croons as rueful a "But Not for Me" as imaginable. They get laughs with a tab version of Shall We Dance?, the film for which the Gershwins supplied the score. They also take jaunty, ardent "Swanee" (Irving Caesar's words) and transform it into a stirring anthem.

As they tell the composer's story, Nadler and Sullivan refer to "the rhythms and rhymes" Gershwin was mad to capture. Their work is a swanky demonstration that those rhythms and rhymes remain profoundly vital and Wall Street-heady today. óDavid Finkle