EVERYTHING'S COMING UP ROSES: THE MUSIC OF JULE STYNE

THE NEW YORK TIMES
2005
By
Stephen Holden

In ''Everything's Coming Up Roses,'' a ferociously entertaining tribute to the composer Jule Styne, KT Sullivan and Mark Nadler, two dizzy throwbacks to old-time show business archetypes, join forces to become the Oddest Couple of Cabaret.

Both have flourishing solo careers. She's a perpetually fading comic bombshell, a Marilyn manquée who ambulates with a wide-eyed jiggle while wielding an improbable semi-operatic soprano. He's a frenzied, piano-banging, jabbering encyclopedia of show business lore who suggests a Frankenstein-like resurrection of Al Jolson, wired from head to toe with the voltage turned on high.

When they pool their zaniness, the dessert they cook up suggests an angel food cake spiked with double espresso. She calms him down; he wakes her up. In the show, playing at the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel, their rapport is so cozy they all but finish each other's sentences. Styne, who died 11 years ago at 88, was himself a gee-whiz enthusiast and an inexhaustible reservoir of brash show tunes, which he could crank out on demand in just minutes. His musical optimism suits performers who are much more comfortable having fun than when searching their souls.

Which is not to say that ''Everything's Coming Up Roses'' is without reflective moments. On the whole, the show is an energetic chronology of Styne's musical life and times that avoids sticky nostalgia. Songs from ''Gypsy,'' ''Funny Girl'' and ''Bells Are Ringing,'' as well as lesser-known musicals, are strung into inventive medleys and duets.

But when Ms. Sullivan croons a sweetly wistful version of ''People,'' standing beside the piano, it revolves around the words, ''We're children needing other children.'' The lovers who are ''very special people'' in the same song are seen as a more mature breed that this latter-day Peter and Wendy contemplate longingly from afar.

The same ingenuousness informs Mr. Nadler's version of ''Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend,'' sung from the point of view of a pauper who can't afford to lavish bling on his dream dates. The song, which follows his remarks on Styne's gambling habit, is the cleverest change of pace in a show that for all its giddy pleasure at living in the past never loses its head.?

NEW YORK OBSERVER
2002
By Rex Reed

KT Sullivan and Mark Nadler have pooled their considerable talents again in "Everything's Coming Up Roses," a new cabaret act at the fabled Oak Room in the Algonquin Hotel that continues to warm and charm through Feb. 26. This time they've added Jule Styne to the list of legendary composers they have honored from coast to coast. Everything fits. She's Lillian Russell in space shoes. He's a cross between Danny Kaye and Chico Marx. Together, they create their own special elixir of musical mayhem. Satisfaction is guaranteed. In the dour cold of a Manhattan winter, that ain't gefilte.

Unlike all those other girl singers who refuse to learn new songs, bubbly blond Floradora girl KT has devoted most of her adult life since she left Boggy Depot, Okla., to learning them all. She can croon "Never Never Land" from Peter Pan or knock the wind out of your sails with the showstoppers that Mr. Styne penned for Judy Holliday in Bells Are Ringing with equal skill and spruce. Mr. Nadler, who used to be merely an entertaining musical wacko, has gained so much self-assurance since he first started performing in New York bars that now, when he calms down long enough to sing a ballad, he can startle and touch you with the beauty of his husky lower register in a slow tempo like "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend." Surprisingly, he tackles Lorelei Lee's anthem for gold diggers everywhere, singing it as the tragic lament of a man who knows what kind of Tiffany rocks lead the way to a girl's heart, but painfully aware that he can't afford them. Sometimes he doesn't even have to open his mouth. From the Scott Joplin-inspired ragtime piano on "Sunday," one of Mr. Styne's earliest Tin Pan Alley tunes, to the gorgeous but seldom-heard love theme from the final, ill-fated Jule Styne show, The Red Shoes, Mr. Nadler is a whiz at the keyboard, too. Talk about longevity. With their two voices, her feathers and his piano, they can take this act to the moon and save money.

Their styles may be different, but they have only one goal - pure, no-frills entertainment. They love music, they think alike, their patter is so grafted along the same lines that they sometimes say the same words at the same time, and they adore the legends who wrote the American Song Book. God help us if they ever move to Vegas. Whatever would they do with a chorus line of naked dancers in spurs? In an intimate space like the Oak Room, they do what they do best, and the audience reaps the benefits. He still taps sitting down, but he's grown suave and dapper on "The People in My Life," while she gets "People," the Streisand signature song that the producers of Funny Girl wanted to delete from the pre-Broadway tour. No ordinary girl singer would have the nerve to sing that one, but KT bravely makes it her own. She is one of the few ladies on the contemporary New York scene who would look right at home in a bustle. When Jule Styne died at 88, his wife Margaret said, "He just ran out of keys." Fortunately, KT Sullivan and Mark Nadler have found them again, along with a few lost chords of their own, and are keeping the great man?s reputation alive and swinging at the Algonquin with a simple strategy Jule Styne would heartily applaud: "Learn all the songs, and then sing out, Louise!"

CABARET SCENES
By Peter Leavy

KT Sullivan and Mark Nadler's tribute to Jule Styne at The Algonquin's Oak Room is informative, charming and a musical treat. His lyricist collaborators were sublime: Comden and Green, Sammy Cahn, Stephen Sondheim, Frank Loesser, Bob Merrill. Considering his prolific output, it was surprising to learn of Styne's childlike irresponsibility, not unlike the character in his own musical, Peter Pan. At the same time, his erratic characteristics may have broadened the scope of his 1500 published songs, which conveniently lends multiple opportunities to vary the show's songbook, patter and performances. For additional variety, on a couple of occasions KT and Mark put aside their microphones in order to present the songs as they were done originally, before everything theatrical was amplified.

Three marriages provided Styne with an ample fund of melodies for love songs, from wanting it, "All I Need is a Girl," to finding it, "Just In Time," to losing it, "I Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry." KT can be affecting with the likes of "It's Been a Long, Long Time" or "I Don't Want to Walk Without You, Baby," but there's also a supremely coquettish "I Said "No,"" with which KT exercises her finely-honed comedic talent.

Mark is a triple-threat entertainer. He is a mean pianist, a surprisingly effective singer, and a soft shoe and tap dancer. He took "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" away from a usual gimmee-gimmee interpretation to a poignant reading of one abandoned by her lover. Styne's "Sunday" (that may have been recognizable to some old-timers as the theme song for the Alice Faye - Phil Harris radio show in the nineteen forties and fifties), written in 1926 with lyrics by Ned Miller, gave Mark another chance to impress with his singing, self-accompaniment, and a bravura finish with some colorful jamming on the piano.

"Everything's Coming Up Roses" is an enjoyable show with most everything going for it: Styne's fetching melodies, scintillating lyrics, great arrangements, some absorbing anecdotes and the interplay and singing of KT and Mark. Even Timothy Flannery's lighting was special, turning the wood-paneled Oak Room into a cozy living room, just the right ambience for the two performers to host such an easy-going soiree for a number of their friends.