KT Sullivan & Jeff Harnar: Sullivan and Harnar Sing Harnick and Strouse

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KT Sullivan and Jeff Harnar

Sullivan and Harnar Sing Harnick and Strouse

Laurie Beechman Theatre, NYC, July 23, 2019

Reviewed by Elizabeth Ahlfors for Cabaret Scenes

KT Sullivan & Jeff Harnar
Photo: Eric Stephen Jacobs

With the charm and enthusiasm of a 1930’s Mickey-and-Judy flick, soprano soubrette KT Sullivan and multi-talented Jeff Harnar delivered a parade of vaudeville-style musical show-stopper favorites, in their salute to the memorable songs of lyricist Sheldon Harnick and composer Charles E. Strouse. The moxie mix of songs, like Harnick’s “Little Old New York” (Tenderloin) and Strouse’s “NYC” (Annie) helped prove that Sullivan and Harnar had “A Lot of Livin’ to Do” (Bye Bye Birdie) in this jam-packed show directed by Sondra Lee in clever, if bursting-full display. Music Director Jon Weber provided valuable accompaniment on piano and vocals.

One outstanding delivery came from Harnar, as he worked the full house, going from man to man, singing Strouse’s “You’ve Got Possibilites.” Sidling through the crowd, Harnar settled on the lap of Harnick himself, to the amusement of the 95-year-old lyricist. Sondra Lee found other songs for clever gender bending, like Sullivan’s, believe it or not, “If I Were a Rich Man.”

Harnar’s heartrending renditions of Harnick’s touching, “Where Do I Go From Here?” was cut from Fiorello but worked poignantly in this show when followed by the icy delight of “Vanilla Ice Cream” (She Loves Me). Harnar’s musical question from, “Do You Love Me?” was answered by a shocked Sullivan, whirling around with surprise, “Do I What?”  Sullivan was memorable with Harnick’s comedic tango, “Boston Beguine” from New Faces of 1952.

A crowd-pleaser was the theme of “Those Were the Days” (the theme of All in the Family) by Strouse and Lee Adams, with Sullivan as Archie and Harnar screeching as Edith. Harnick’s 1930’s Fiorello seemed contemporary with the political shenanigans of the lilting “Little Tin Box” and “Politics and Poker.” Delectible harmony and sensitivity combined the bittersweet “Til Tomorrow” (Fiorello!) with Annie’s sunny “Tomorrow.”

A downside was the copious cluster of songs, often in snippets, giving the feeling of a crammed songbook. The show was most impressive when these two artists presented their songs in totality. What we had was a good time, but what it added up to was good music cut short.

Sullivan and Harner demonstrated their valuable acting talents, comedic instincts, and impressive vocals, and delivered their show with energy and sentiment. They closed their salute to Strouse and Harnick by pairing Fiddler’s show-stopping anthem, “To Life,” with Strouse’s “Applause” from Applause.

Elizabeth Ahlfors

Born and raised in New York, Elizabeth graduated from NYU with a degree in Journalism. She has lived in various cities and countries and now is back in NYC. She has written magazine articles and published three books: A Housewife’s Guide to Women’s Liberation, Twelve American Women, and Heroines of ’76 (for children). A great love was always music and theater—in the audience, not performing. A Philadelphia correspondent for Theatre.com and InTheatre Magazine, she has reviewed theater and cabaret for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia City News. She writes for Cabaret Scenes and other cabaret/theater sites. She is a judge for Nightlife Awards and a voting member of Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle.