It was a combination made in cabaret heaven: singer KT Sullivan and the music of Noel Coward, Cole Porter and Bart Howard. And on Tuesday, at the opening of a five-night run at the Cinegrill in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, it was the intimate art of cabaret at its very best.
Why Coward, Porter and Howard? For several reasons. The first is that 1999 is the centennial of Coward's birth. The second is that all three songwriters were members of that rare breed--composers who wrote music and lyrics for their songs. And the third is simply that the brisk, witty sophistication that characterized the trio's work is perfectly suited for Sullivan's multiple talents.
A well-established musical theater artist--she starred with Sting in "The Three Penny Opera" and played Lorelei Lee in the recent revival of "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes"--Sullivan is equally adept with the far more intimate demands of the cabaret stage. Her performance at the Cinegrill was characterized by a quality present in the work of too few artists--an awareness of the fact that effective cabaret, like effective film acting, relies as much upon body language and the use of eyes as it does upon verbal communication.
And Sullivan has a superb voice as well, capable of singing small, sweetly subtle passages and hard-hitting climactic high points, then switching to different character styles to suit the needs of each song.
She was languorous with Coward's "World Weary," wickedly sardonic with Porter's "Most Gentlemen Don't Like Love" and utterly hilarious with Porter's "Always True to You in My Fashion" (before suddenly switching gears for a lovely rendering of "So in Love"). And when she turned to Howard's "Fly Me to the Moon," she restored the song to its original romanticism.
Sullivan added many other high points to what was surely one of the finest cabaret outings of recent memory. Los Angeles may not have the quantity of intimate nightclub entertainment found in Manhattan, but, in Sullivan's performance, it has quality of the highest order. She deserves packed houses for the balance of her too-brief run at the Cinegrill.
* KT Sullivan (accompanied by Mark Nadler) at the Cinegrill in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, 7000 Hollywood Blvd. Through Saturday, 8 p.m. $20 cover charge and $10 minimum beverage or desert purchase. (213) 466-7000.