Cabaret Review
A de-lovely Cole Porter party
May 24, 2007
By Don Heckman, Special to The Times

A 116th anniversary isn't the kind of round number that easily lends itself to celebration. But any day's a good day to recall the extraordinary accomplishments of Cole Porter. The great songwriter's actual birth date is June 9, 1891, but nobody complained about the earliness of a bash in his honor Tuesday at the Cinegrill, "A Swell Party! — RSVP Cole Porter."

Headlining vocalists KT Sullivan and Mark Nadler brought different, but complementary, skills to a show that happily encompassed the familiar ("I've Got You Under My Skin") as well as the lesser known ("Most Gentlemen Don't Like Love") from Porter's catalog. Sullivan, whose Broadway credits include "The Threepenny Opera" and "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," was remarkable. Blessed with an extraordinary voice, flawless pitch, splendid interpretive abilities and a droll sense of humor, she was in sync with the rich subtleties of the Porter songs.

Sullivan found the whimsy, the innuendo and the slapstick humor in "Kate the Great" and "The Tale of the Oyster." A medley of "So in Love" and "Get Out of Town" slyly combined the romantic masochism of the former with the urgent escapism of the latter. And her lush rendering of "Down in the Depths (On the Ninetieth Floor)" was a masterful display of torch singing.

Nadler's approach was far broader. He was at his best — playing piano and interacting vocally with Sullivan — in duet numbers such as "Let's Do It" (which must have included every variation ever imagined by Porter) and a medley centered around the evocative "I Love Paris." But Nadler's solo numbers — especially the over-the-top take on "Too Darn Hot" — too often emerged via a narrowly focused intensity that didn't quite engage the layered emotional density that is always at the heart of Porter's songs.

It was "A Swell Party," especially since it took place a day after Porter was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. But why did it have to wait until he was almost 116 years old?

`A Swell Party! -- RSVP Cole Porter'
Where: Cinegrill, Roosevelt Hotel, 7000 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood


March 14, 2006
By Elizabeth Ahlfors

KT Sullivan, the "It" girl of cabaret, and dapper Mark Nadler are throwing A Swell Party—RSVP Cole Porter at the Algonquin's Oak Room, and, folks, lift your giggle water, it's time for beginning the beguine and dream dancing.

A swell party it is, with John Loehrke on bass and Loren Schoenberg on saxophone, and jazz ruling the rhythms. Most effective are imaginative combinations which illuminate the meaning of the songs and often take the tunes in new directions. Sullivan croons the obsessive "So In Love," Schoenberg's smokin' sax behind her, and suddenly the mood switches. The lady is "so in love" that she risks her own destruction if her man doesn't "Get Out of Town," Sullivan lowering her tone, her voice further darkening with the words, "I care for you much too much." While Sullivan uses her comedy and acting flair to put across her songs, she displays an expanding range which is quite emotional. She later reaches up to the 90th floor with a torchy "Down In the Depths."

Mark Nadler's arrangements are vivid and creative, peaking with a Paris medley with romance, of course, as its encircling theme. It begins with "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye," and includes Nadler's version of "After You, Who?" in French. It ends with Sullivan singing the same song in English. With Porter's Paris tunes tucked in, it is an dramatic and musically effective story sequence. A final medley takes on a nighttime theme with Schoenberg's sax solo of "Begin the Beguine" and both Nadler and Sullivan rushing off-stage to change into very elegant bedtime attire. "Wouldn't It Be Fun?" they tease, and then pensively decide it was "Just One of Those Things."

This engaging show not only spotlights the familiar talents of each performer but presents Cole Porter with intriguing musical vignettes instead of bio-patter. RSVP the Oak Room for a de-lovely time with Cole Porter and the imagination of this copacetic couple.

Saturday, March 18, 2006
Cabaret Review

A Swell Party - R.S.V.P. Cole Porter
Oak Room

They Skip the Bio and Cut To the Cole Porter Chase
By Stephen Holden

In the language of Cole Porter: oo-la-la-la!  C’est magnifique!

That burst of Gallic joie describes the ebullience of “A Swell Party – R.S.V.P. Cole Porter,” the truly fabulous Porter tribute winked, smirked, crooned and shouted by KT Sullivan and Mark Nadler at the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel.  A departure from the team’s zany tutorials on luminaries of the great American songbook, “A Swell Party” skips the biographical part to deliver songs both famous and obscure, in a delirious whoosh of lubricious exuberance.

Imparting the composer’s live-for-the-moment-of-passion philosophy, Ms. Sullivan and Mr. Nadler suggest a very ripened Botticelli Venus squired by Danny Kaye, freshly reincarnated as a hyperkinetic piano man visiting from vaudeville heaven.  A valuable new addition to their act, the saxophonist Loren Schoenberg injects instrumental comedy into “Let’s Do It,” by deflating the phrase sung as “let’s fall in love” by inflecting it with a corny vibrato; no, the song is definitely not about love.  Later he returns for a husky insinuating solo of “Begin the Beguine” in which the singers and the bassist John Loehrke join him t evoke an image of an ocean liner swimming in Champagne at 4 a.m.

Beneath the brilliantine surface of Porter’s lyrics, everything is sexual.  The only times his double-entendres fade into the background is during sighs of besotted yearning and cries of rapture.  Only then does lust turn into the kind of love that’s “too hot not to cool down.”

“A Swell Party” probably has more showstoppers than any other cabaret show this season.  Here are two: After taking “Kate the Great,” an editorial brief for nymphomania that offers Catherine the Great as a role model (“she made the butler/she made the groom/she made the maid who made the room”), Mr. Nadler astutely observes that the song describes how Porter might have ruled Russia.

The giddiest of Ms. Sullivan’s several turns as erotic philosopher is a swiveling, eye-rolling “Most Gentlemen Don’t Like Love,” which warns all gals: “So just remember when you get that glance/A romp and a quickie/Is all little Dickie/Means/When he mentions romance.”

There’s more, much more where that came from in a show that reminds you that half the pleasure of excess is finding the perfect words to describe it.