KT Sullivan & Mark Nadler


March 27, 2007

Music Review | Mark Nadler and K T Sullivan

The Story of a Creative Duo, Told Through Their Songs


Life would be a snap if you followed some basic musical comedy advice. Make someone else happy, and you will be happy too. Remember that every day comes once in a lifetime, so make the most of every day; and so on and so forth.

Those useful tips are embedded in the song lyrics of Betty Comden and Adolph Green, the dearly beloved team to whom Mark Nadler and K T Sullivan pay affectionate tribute in their effervescent cabaret show “Make Someone Happy.” According to Mr. Nadler and Ms. Sullivan, Comden and Green were hard workers who met every day for 60 years.

This shiny soap bubble of a show, which plays at the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel, isn’t an ordinary anthology. Twenty songs with Comden and Green lyrics are ingeniously woven with bits of dialogue from six of their screenplays — “The Barkleys of Broadway,” “On the Town,” “Singin’ in the Rain,” “The Band Wagon,” “It’s Always Fair Weather” and “Bells Are Ringing” — into a nonsensical pastiche that beneath its scatterbrained surface must have entailed some serious archival scholarship.

Mr. Nadler, a hyperkinetic piano man, and Ms. Sullivan, an eternal kewpie doll with a sly sense of humor and a real voice, plunge into it with the verve of a latter-day Mickey and Judy. What they have created is a savvy, witty distillation of musical comedy’s golden age of optimistic escape.

The versatility of a Comden and Green lyric can be illustrated by the transformation of “Never Met a Man I Didn’t Like” (from “The Will Rogers Follies”) from a friendly assertion of belief in people, constructed around Rogers’s motto, into a sultry bump-and-grind for Ms. Sullivan to sing while twirling a black feather boa.

But the real showstopper, “Catch Our Act at the Met” (from “Two on the Aisle”), with music by Jule Styne, is an operatic spoof that drops names like “Dickie” Wagner and “Jake” Puccini. “Faust” is also a strand of the silly plot that sends this Mickey and Judy to Coney Island. Highbrow or lowbrow, it’s all the same in musical-comedy never-never land, where happy endings rule.

“Make Someone Happy” runs through April 14 at the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel, 59 West 44th Street, Manhattan; (212) 419-9331.