The only thing sure about an appearance by KT Sullivan is her hat. During an evening with old friend and occasional club partner, singer/pianist Larry Woodard, Sullivan offers deadpan Ethel Merman, wide-eyed Betty Boop, and grande dame Lillian Russell-period personas. Brass and sass seemingly come as naturally to the vocalist as classically influenced soprano turns.
Declaring she should’ve been born in the last century, replete in vintage black décolleté gown and elbow-length gloves, Sullivan warbles “The Merry Widow Waltz” coupled with “Once in a Blue Moon.” She barely opens her mouth, controlling every warm, round note from within chest and throat. Picture perfect posture and stillness emphasize expression. Duets from the Student Prince include “When It’s Summertime in Heidelberg,” a jaunty little ditty evoking manners and monocles you’re unlikely to hear again on a cabaret stage. The unlikely material is served without a glimmer of parody. Really, one wants to waltz. A rendition of “In the Still of the Night” sung mike-less from the audience, floats like feathers.
That this same thespian can deliver “You’re Just in Love” from Call Me Madam (in duet) with room-shifting whomp, “I Wanna Be Bad,” originally performed in 1928 with batting eyelashes, and the uproarious “My Husband’s First Wife” in utter sarcasm, is a wonder.
Woodard sings duet on many numbers and accompanies all on piano. When Sullivan briefly leaves the stage, he solos Don McLean’s “Starry Starry Night” followed by the beautiful “Night Song” from Golden Boy. Both are moving interpretations. A “medlet”= a medley of only two songs, featuring 1929’s “I’m a Gigolo” and “Just a Gigolo,” has great charm. Though Woodard’s voice is unsteady and his vocal range limited, what he brings to the table in experience and emotion contributes to every song.
These are two comrades who salute and respect one another. The stage is bathed in warmth.
Photo credit Russ Weatherford
Sullivan and Woodard: Glamorous Summer Nights
KT Sullivan and Larry Woodard
Laurie Beechman Theater
Again on September 19, 2012