Jeff Harnar, Todd Murray, KT Sullivan, Stacy Sullivan: We Love the Winter: Songs of the Season

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Jeff Harnar, Todd Murray, KT Sullivan, Stacy Sullivan

We Love the Winter: Songs of the Season

54 Below, NYC, December 5, 2023

Reviewed by Alix Cohen

Jeff Harnar, KT Sullivan, Stacy Sullivan, Todd Murray

Holiday shows are notoriously corny. This delightful presentation replaced cliché with style and wry humor wrapped in heart. Directed with a light hand by Jeff Harnar, with music direction by Jon Weber, the piece was sincere without skewing Hallmark, jaunty not camp, and thoroughly entertaining. Stacy Sullivan, KT Sullivan, Todd Murray, and Jeff Harnar created an appealing soundscape of solos and revolving back-up vocals and related to one another with obvious affection. The opening medley was effervescent.

Stacy’s “Christmas Morning” (Heather and Tim Sullivan) was a 1969 prayer for peace inspired by the two of the eight Sullivan siblings who were then eligible for the Vietnam War draft. Though specifically detailed, it’s a song to which so many families will relate, alas, even today. Later, her emotionally translucent “O Holy Night” (Adolphe Adam; English lyric by John Sullivan Dwight) was joined in graceful solemnity by the rest of the company.

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” (Frank Loesser), recently labeled “politically incorrect” as a song about female coercion, was performed by Stacy and Todd with the droll original lyrics: Ok, you’re free to goescalates toWhat part of leave don’t you understand?” and “I know how to spell harassment!” Ridiculous censorship was met with brio and both artists charmingly embodied the characters.

Todd’s version of “Blue Christmas” (Billy Hayes/Jay W. Johnson) continued in a satirical vein with ersatz Elvis embodiment. Hips swaying, he whipped out a neck scarf. “T-Bone!” Harnar called out, as he ostensibly swooned. Todd’s rendering of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” (Gloria Shane/Noel Regney), on the other hand, was stirring and resonant. His deep, vibrant baritone fiound its way palpably into one’s chest.

The clever “Hanukkah in Santa Monica” “wearing sandals, lighting candles by the sea!” (Tom Lehrer) was performed aptly deadpan by Jeff. A tandem “In the Window”/“Light One Candle” (Peter Yarrow) followed, poignantly blanketing the room with stillness: “Don’t let the light go out/It’s lasted so many years.” Amen.

“Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” (Randy Brooks) was subversively funny in the hands of KT who, though formally dressed, danced, mimed, and mugged with yee-haw abandon. In duet with her sister Stacy, they held hands and then turned ,with skill and sympathy, to lonely single women singing “Merry Christmas to Me” (Addy Fieger/ Danny Apolinar) and “Hard Candy Christmas” (Carol Hall), first rueful, then resolute.

The second part of this program consisted of a buoyant, condensed version of the classic 1954 film White Christmas, which starred Rosemary Clooney, Vera Ellen, Bing Crosby, and Danny Kaye. Accompanied by the marvelous Irving Berlin score, tonight’s four multi-talented, eminently game artists (with Harnar acting as witty, commenting narrator) brought the entire film to sparkling light. (Harnar wrote the script.) Their movements were engaging, and their expressions were irresistible. Weber stood in for Colonel Waverly, and oh!, the ostrich fans that were deployed in “Sisters” number, first by KT as Rosie and Stacy as Vera, then (by lip-synching) Todd as Bing and Jeff as Danny. What a hoot.

Hopefully this holiday tonic—a gently shaken recipe of talent, aplomb, and smiley zest—will return to find itself elsewhere next year.

Alix Cohen

Alix Cohen’s writing began with poetry, segued into lyrics then took a commercial detour. She now authors pieces about culture/the arts, including reviews and features. A diehard proponent of cabaret, she’s also a theater aficionado, a voting member of Drama Desk, The Drama League and of The NY Press Club in addition to MAC. Currently, Alix writes for Cabaret Scenes, Theater Pizzazz and Woman Around Town. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine and Times Square Chronicles. Alix is the recipient of six New York Press Club Awards.