KT Sullivan at the Pheasantry
By Clive Davis
Published: January 6, 2011
Things are looking up. Anyone still recovering from that feeble display at Sadler’s Wells by the would-be hipsters Bourgeois & Maurice will find their faith in cabaret restored by Coloured Lights, KT Sullivan’s bubbly autobiographical journey through the vintage end of the songbook. Glamorous though she may be, the American singer and actress never takes herself too seriously. As the evening rattles by, she recalls the lows as well as the highs of her time on and off Broadway, and she is more than happy to share her memories of the ill-fated production of The Threepenny Opera, starring Sting, which sank with all hands.
But there is no questioning her passion for classic material, exemplified by a virtuoso medley at the close that celebrated an astonishing array of 29 songs — from "Am I Blue" to "Honeysuckle Rose” — all published in 1929. Here, as elsewhere, Jon Weber’s piano accompaniment overflowed with deliciously jazzy touches, stride rhythms bursting through time and again. The most assured cabaret pianist to come this way in quite a while, he grabbed his moment in the spotlight earlier in the evening with an intricate and seductive solo on "Autumn in New York."
Something of an Anglophile, Sullivan has enormous fun with Noël Coward’s "World Weary." If her light, operetta-ish voice can be a touch chilly at times, she makes some audacious leaps in mood and tone. "Falling in Love with Love" suits her perfectly, but she is capable of taking on a much more contemporary and worldly number in the shape of "Dreaming," a characteristically wistful item from that hugely underrated singer-songwriter, Amanda McBroom.
A pause in proceedings came in a brief though high-spirited reading of quotes from No Turn Unstoned, Diana Rigg’s compilation of grim theatrical reviews. Dispatches from Michael Billington, Bernard Levin and the cheerfully abusive New York critic John Simon all twisted the knife. It goes without saying that Sullivan’s show , which runs until Sunday, stands no chance of making it into any future edition.
Small-Town Girl Makes Good, Laughing All the Way
K T Sullivan at the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel.
By Stephen Holden
New York Times
Published: September 21, 2007
The journey from the sticks to the Broadway stage is a pilgrimage that has been made by countless performers. But no one in recent memory has turned it into the kind of thrill ride that the singer K T Sullivan makes of it in her new cabaret show, “Autumn in New York.”
As she travels in song from her rural hometown, Boggy Depot, Okla., to Manhattan, Ms. Sullivan evokes the mythical distance between polar dream worlds. The naïve show-business hopeful who begins the journey is given voice by two songs from “The Fantasticks”: “Try to Remember,” in which she looks back wistfully, and “Much More,” in which she dreams of going to town “in a golden gown.” The sophisticated urban malcontent her alter ego recognizes but refuses to become is evoked in songs by Stephen Sondheim (“Who’s That Woman?”) and Noël Coward (“World Weary”). It is a persona Ms. Sullivan would rather laugh at than embrace.
“Autumn in New York” is Ms. Sullivan’s 10th appearance at the Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel and her first in several years without another singer by her side. With Tedd Firth on piano and Steve Doyle on bass, and directed by Eric Michael Gillett, this show is Ms. Sullivan’s great leap forward as a soloist.
Where most performers turn their show-business histories into self-serving tales of triumph leading to disillusion and finally to wisdom, Ms. Sullivan has no pretensions to being a sage. A sexy, wide-eyed comedian with a semi-operatic voice that is in the best shape I can remember, she is having a ball. Instead of sadder and wiser, she is happier and wiser.
An early segment covers Ms. Sullivan’s less-than-triumphant brushes with Broadway (she appeared in George Abbott’s “Broadway,” “The Threepenny Opera” with Sting, and “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”) and culminates with a cheerful reading of excerpts from “No Turn Unstoned,” a collection of damning theater reviews put together by Diana Rigg.
The show’s centerpiece is Ms. Sullivan’s hilarious take on “World Weary,” which had me laughing out loud on Wednesday. “I want a horse and plow/Chickens too/Just one cow/With a wistful moo,” moans the self-pitying urban night crawler who narrates the song. You wonder what Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, today’s contemporary equivalents of Marie Antoinette playing a milkmaid, might make of it. Ms. Sullivan makes it sidesplitting.
K T Sullivan continues through Oct. 13 at the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel, 59 West 44th Street, Manhattan; (212) 419-9331.
KT SULLIVAN: Autumn in New York
By Elizabeth Ahlfors
September 18, 2007
Autumn, spring, whenever, there is no doubt that KT Sullivan loves what she is doing. Every detail shines with care, her gowns, her accompanists, and her delivery of songs. Listen to her medley of Another Op'ning', Another Show and There's No Business Like Show Business. Show biz may not be easy – "you're broken hearted but you go on " – but with Sullivan, you believe her when she sings, "You wouldn't change it for a sack of gold."
This feeling of being exactly where she wants to be at this stage of her life ruminates through Autumn in New York, KT Sullivan's tenth show at the Algonquin Oak Room. This time Sullivan is solo, backed by Tedd Firth on piano and Steve Doyle on bass. She chooses a generous selection of theatre songs, some she performed on the big stage, others add to the tale of just a little girl from Boggy Depot who lands on the New York stage. Although Sullivan keeps patter to a minimum, she is inspired enough by the sentiment in Irving Berlin's Well of All the Rotten Shows (Face the Music), to include a light-hearted reading of unflattering theatre reviews from No Turn Unstoned.
Sullivan mingles witty and sparkling tunes with older and wiser, brought to a peak with Noel Coward's World Weary. Her enunciation is clear, her soprano voice clear, and her interpretations well thought through. She includes lovely melodic tunes like Will You? by Frankel and Korie from Grey Gardens, Adam Guettel's Dividing Day from The Light in the Piazza, and Jerry Herman's poignant And I Was Beautiful, from Dear World. Colored Lights (Kander/Ebb) from The Rink and Try to Remember (The Fantasticks by Schmidt/Jones) evoke nostalgia with a mere twinge of lament. From Threepenny Opera by Weill and Brecht, Sullivan takes on the gritty lyrics and realism of Barbara Song. She is spirited with Who's That Woman?, Sondheim's Follies' rueful recognition of passing years and has fun with a song cut from Applause by Strouse and Adams, called Smashing New York Times. September Song by Weill and Anderson, is just facing Life.
Regret has hardly a role in Autumn in New York. Sullivan has an upbeat, driving energy that does not wallow in sentimentality, and Eric Michael Gillette directed a show that illuminates the Sullivan spirit for music and performing.
Autumn in New York with KT Sullivan runs from September 18 through October 13.
Don't Miss KT Sullivan at Centerstage
By Charles Shubow
Published: September 18, 2010
New York has come to Baltimore for the week-end. First, the New York Yankees invade Camden Yards to play the hot Baltimore Orioles. Then, the Oak Room at the famous Algonquin Hotel in Manhattan has been magically transferred to Baltimore's Center Stage where the incomparable cabaret chanteuse KT Sullivan is performing through Sunday afternoon with the incomparable Jon Weber on the piano (who performed the entire night without any sheet music).
For those theater-goers who have never heard of Sullivan (like me), you are in for an amazing treat as she demonstrates her superb voice, comedic timing, and wonderful theater anecdotes that will entertain all ages.
Kathleen Sullivan had to change her name to KT since, under Actor's Equity rules, the name was already in use. Her pedigree is quite impressive. (I do wish Centerstage would issue programs so audiences could read about her background.) She's appeared on Broadway and touring productions of The Three Penny Opera (with Sting), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and Annie Get Your Gun.
The packed Head Theatre was an appreciative crowd and for good reason. Sullivan sings a wide range of Broadway tunes infused with emotion, passion, sensuality, humor, and just plain fun. She appeared in a classy lemongrass sequined gown which featured a cowl neck.
Her repertoire included many popular tunes and many the audience was hearing for the first time.
She opened the evening with "Try to Remember" from The Fantasticks which featured a quick tempo. She followed that with the title song from Do I Hear a Waltz.
Her anecdotes about theater were entertaining. She talked about the draw of New York City where every night on Broadway, 1,000 dreams are born. Then she did a rendition of "Dainty June and the Farmboys Boys from Gypsy. Sullivan would be a terrific Mamma Rose.
Center Stage recently did a wonderful production of The Boys from Syracuse. She sang the famous "Falling in Love With Love" from that show.
Sullivan played a second understudy for the Broadway production of Three Penny Opera with Sting. She sang (sans microphone) "Barbara Song" from the Kurt Weill /Berthold Brecht show.
Since she has appeared in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, she added "I'm Just a Little Girl from Little Rock". Sullivan by the way is not from Little Rock, but Oklahoma.
One of funnier parts of the evening was Sullivan reading excerpts from the book "No Turn Unstoned", a collection of theater reviews compiled by actress Diana Rigg. The audience was roaring with laughter after hearing some of the quotes. I must get this book!
The "Tale of an Oyster" by Cole Posrter (cut from Fifty Million Frenchman in 1929) had hysterical lyrics. Sullivan quipped it was cut because it made people sick.
She's noted for her various and unusual medleys. One included "Another Autumn" from Paint Your Wagon and the haunting "Will You" from Grey Gardens (the only song I like from that show). Another combined "One Halloween" and "But Alive" both from Applause. There was also a gorgeous medley of "Much More" from the Fantasticks and "Colored Lights" from The Rink.
Other highlights included the lovely "Dividing Day" from Light in the Piazza, "Autumn in New York" from Thumbs Up (which featured an amazing jazz cadenza from Weber), "And I Was Beautiful" from Dear World, "Who's That Woman" from Follies, "World Weary" from Noel Coward's This Year of Grace and the hilarious "My Husband's First Wife" from Sweet Adeline.
The obligatory encore was a tour de force compilation of the greatest hits from 1929. You will not believe how many phenomenal songs were written that year. She actually sings a medley of 29 songs which include such numbers as "Am I Blue", Puttin' on the Ritz", "Button Up Your Overcoat", "With a Song in My Heart", "Ain't Misbehavin'", "Singin' in the Rain", "You Were Meant for Me" and "Happy Days Are Are Here Again".
The evening was thoroughly entertaining. Helping was great lighting by Lesley Boeckman, scenic design by Jennifer Stearns, and sound by Amy Wedel.
To learn more about the cabaret series (and hear Sullivan sing) visit www.centerstage.org/cabaret.
For Sullivan's web site, visit www.ktsullivan.com.
I was amazed that neither Sullivan or Weber took one sip of anything during the ninety minute performance. But, immediately after the show, Sullivan and Weber head right to the bar at the rear of the theater, where you can join them to say hello and buy some her CDs which she will autograph.