Something Wonderful:          Richard Rodgers In Song

VARIETY                                                                                      Something Wonderful

(Town Hall; 1,500 seats; $35)

A Town Hall presentation by arrangement with Arthur Shafman Intl. Artistic director, Lawrence Zuker; lighting, John Gordon; stage manager, Charles J. Dishian. Reviewed June 2, 2005.

Performers: Heather Mac Rae, KT Sullivan, Craig Rubano, Mark Nadler.

Following an extensive U.S. tour, "Something Wonderful" -- a celebration of songs by Richard Rodgers -- nestled for an evening at Town Hall that boasted a soothing blend of sentimentt and wit. An agreeable and familiar cabaret foursome -- KT Sullivan, Heather Mac Rae, Craig Rubano and Mark Nadler -- tread gracefully over the canon spotting nearly 40 familiar showtunes. While there was a linking thumbnail biographical narrative of sorts, the songs were best defined by the bright witty lyrics of Lorenz Hart and the poetically sublime words of Oscar Hammerstein II.
Sullivan is a glamorous cabaret diva whose soaring sweet soprano invested "He Was Too Good to Me" with torchy grandeur; her take on "Ten Cents a Dance" defined the restless plight and weary disenchantment of a dance hall hostess.

The stately beauty also displays a subtle dry wit on Hart's devilishly clever "To Keep My Love Alive," penned for the 1943 revival of "A Connecticut Yankee." With appealing deadpan accuracy, the wide-eyed Sullivan made Hart's lethal confessional the evening's most deliciously naughty escapade.

The sole piano accompaniment for the evening was provided by Nadler, a musician who plays with aggressive flourish and imagination. In addition to sudden bursts of manic humor, he can tap-dance as he plays.

Nadler recruited a young damsel from the audience to illustrate the amorous dancing encounter between a certain Siamese king and an English schoolmarm. The gag was a bit overlong, but garnered hefty audience response.

MacRae, daughter of film baritone Gordon MacRae, paid homage to her father, who starred as Curly in the 1955 film of "Oklahoma!" and as Billy Bigelow a year later in "Carousel." As an intro to her trotting take on "The Surrey With the Fringe on Top," MacRae noted James Dean had been considered to play Curly with her father's dubbed singing voice. Fortunately, Dad was lassoed for the part.

The concert's peak moment found MacRae and Rubano in the heart-stopping park bench pairing of Julie Jordan and the restless carny barker singing "If I Loved You." Rodgers often cited "Carousel" as his favorite show, and the fervent duet at the concert's end was a glorious reaffirmation.

Handsome romantic baritone Rubano also invested "This Nearly Was Mine" with the kind of ardent passion that once defined the musicals of Broadway's golden age.

The pillar-to-post staging of the concert was a little static, but the music rose above it.