Review: KT Sullivan & Mark Nadler

Originally reviewed for GaySocialites.com.

10 years ago, Soprano KT Sullivan and pianist/entertainer extraordinaire Mark Nadler, starred in a very smart revue of Gershwin songs called American Rhapsody. The two of them packed the stage of the Triad Theatre with more talent than many a Broadway musical, and the show ran for nine months. Now, ten years later, they’re playing an entirely new Gershwin show at the Algonquin Hotel’s Oak Room, titled Gershwin… Here to Stay, and it’s every bit as engaging as American Rhapsody.

Nadler is the showier of the two talents: At one point during American Rhapsody he leapt from floor to piano bench, tap-dancing madly, singing and keeping steady eye contact with the audience—all this while playing a complex passage on the piano without even glancing at the keys. He does play, sing and tap dance in the new show, but only two at a time. The result is still pretty stunning.

Stunning, too, is Sullivan’s singing; classically trained, she has also become a master of pop phrasing, bringing the best of both worlds to the Gershwin’s songs. And of course the songs are stunning: I like a Gershwin tune, how about you?

Nadler also does most of the musical arrangements and theatrical conception for the duo’s shows, and he has truly outdone himself here. There’s always some unspoken subtext to the shows that Mark puts together, which actually does give them extra oomph.

Here there seems to be something about angels and demons going on, which beautifully suits Nadler’s manic energy and Sullivan’s smoothly gliding physicality and vocals. He and Sullivan also make excellent use of the Oak Room’s notoriously difficult long and narrow layout, exiting and entering from opposite ends, playing to — and in — every nook and cranny.

For fairly long stretches of the show, Nadler leaves the piano playing to the terrific Jon Weber. In one of the shows most exhilarating moments the two of them do a four-handed piano transcription of George Gershwin’s “Concerto in F.” Once again, stunning.

So far 2010 has been a spectacular year for cabaret, with glittering shows like Christine Ebersole knockin’ us flat at the Carlyle, and major talent Marilyn Maye returning to the major rooms with a run at Feinstein’s. GershwinHere to Stay is in that same, electrifying league.

For tickets, click here.

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