KT Sullivan & Mark Nadler

American songbook gets royal treatment at Colony

Palm Beach Post Arts Writer

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Kindred cutups KT Sullivan and Mark Nadler are puckishly strolling through the American songbook in their current stay at the Colony Hotel's Royal Room on Palm Beach, or, as they put it, "the land of luncheons."

They are offering a selection of classic and lesser-known numbers from such renowned tunesmiths as Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, Irving Berlin and the Gershwins, often emphasizing their prolific verbal wit.

The verdict: A pair of kindred cutups and their puckish, well-sung tour of the American songbook.

So keep your nutcrackers and Scrooges, an evening with Sullivan and Nadler is a far better way to get into a holiday mood.

With her cultured soprano voice and kewpie-doll looks and his manic manner and fiendish piano accompaniment, they began with Porter's Well, Did You Evah? from the movie High Society, quickly setting the playful tone of "a swell party."

As if reminding themselves, they announced that they were not going to talk much, then continued to natter on, solidifying their instant rapport with the audience.

It is taking nothing away from their musicianship to note that they are a textbook example of a cabaret act which needs to be seen live on the sheer strength of their ingratiating personalities.

The downside of that, though, is that whenever they play a song straight - as they do with Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein's operetta-ish Make Believe from Show Boat - we find ourselves waiting for the comic punch line.

From Porter, they segued effortlessly into a medley of songs from Rodgers' stage work, with selections from both of his longtime lyricists, Hart and Hammerstein.

The latter's numbers may be more familiar, but in a cabaret setting, the showier, more smart-alecky rhymes by Hart will always win out.

Sullivan and Nadler scored with A Connecticut Yankee's To Keep My Love Alive, a list song of ways to kill off one's partner which includes the triple rhyme "fratricide/patricide/mattress side." Well, did you evah?

Also no lightweights when it comes to sly lyrics are Betty Comden and Adolph Green, who often teamed with composer Jule Styne, as demonstrated in Catch Our Act at the Met. In this low-brow salute to the opera world, they put "the wriggle in Rigoletto," as one line has it. Perhaps the high point of an act that does not have a clunker in it was Nadler's nimble playing of Gershwin's S'Wonderful, with a deft arrangement of Rhapsody in Blue in counterpoint. Those boyhood piano lessons have paid off.

Their act here is like a "best of ..." of their repertoire, culled from entire evenings devoted to these individual composers and lyricists, studded with other precocious musical numbers.

The existence of such tributes is reason enough why Sullivan and Nadler need to be brought back to the Colony Royal Room, and often.