KT Sullivan & Mark Nadler



KT Sullivan and Mark Nadler

By Elizabeth Ahlfors

"Gershwin...Here to Stay"

Guest Artist: Jon Weber


Oak Room at the Algonquin  -  March 9 – April 10


KT Sullivan and Mark Nadler treat audiences to a magical, theatrical whirl—in, out and around the Oak Room. Gershwin...Here to Stay is non-stop musical revue/theatre with comedy, duets, solos, a little soft-shoe, tap, costume changes, patter, joy and some tears. Once again, Sullivan and Nadler prove that the music of the renowned brothers, George and Ira, is here to stay.

The show is precisely directed, choreographed and well focused. It is an event. Special guest, jazz pianist Jon Weber, comes along to celebrate the complex Gershwin musical harmonies. Gershwin's music defines the driving New York spirit, mingling jazz, Eastern European, and classical sounds to create both pop songs and formal compositions. The emphasis here is on the popular songs, although Nadler and Weber perform an abridged form of "Concerto in F," abundant in American rhythms and spirit. Later in the show, Nadler demonstrates that despite the often melancholy moods of Gershwin's music, there is often an inner joy, shown here when Nadler delivers the delightful lyrics of "'S Wonderful" over the evocative chords of "Rhapsody in Blue."

Ten years ago, KT Sullivan and Mark Nadler performed American Rhapsody at the Triad Theater. That show might now be considered an entertaining draft of this more sophisticated and polished production. An impressionistic flow of moods dictates the pace of Gershwin...Here to Stay. The Gershwin songbook offers such a wealth of choices that Sullivan and Nadler have selected almost all new songs. This concept becomes more inventive as each performer enjoys numerous opportunities to show his/her skills individually. Both are also more refined as performers now. Nadler tamps down the zany energy but keeps his wit. Adding Jon Weber gives him a chance to show a bit of terpsichorean chops in "Shall We Dance," and the two men turn vaudevillian with "The Babbit and the Bromide."

KT Sullivan shows her versatile combination of sly humor and emotional and interpretive depth. George G's lyricists, especially Ira Gershwin, reflect the street-wise sass of the day, and Sullivan is simply singing better than ever. She is as deft with an effervescent little ditty like "My Little Ducky" (lyrics by B.G. DeSylva) as she is, in a lower tone, with the gentle "For You, For Me, Forever More." Remembering Gershwin's love for Kay Swift, she is especially compelling with, "But Not for Me." After a costume change, Sullivan re-enters in slinky black, purring "Sam and Delilah," sultry as a saloon singer. "A Woman is a Sometime Thing" (lyrics by DuBose Heyward) shows mature understanding, then the mood turns to a cheery "Somebody Loves Me" (MacDonald/DeSylva), a sexy "Do It Again" (DeSylva), and the pop jazz tones of "I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise" (DeSylva with Ira Gershwin).

When she and Nadler sing "I Got Rhythm," Sullivan proves that Ethel Merman was not the only one with potent breath control. Creatively, they used this song to shoehorn in some obligatory thank-you's, a nice change from the usual recitation. The patter throughout is pointed and not rambling, including tidbits about Gershwin's love life (abundant) and his unfulfilled ambitions.

Sullivan and Nadler offer numerous memorable moments in this imaginative show, but most poignant is "Love Is Here to Stay," the song Ira (with Vernon Duke) wrote to his brother's melody after George's sudden death. The song endures as a love song, and Sullivan and Nadler perform it tenderly, simply and honestly. Neither George nor Ira could ask for anything more.