KT Sullivan and Jeff Harnar delivered a top notch performance from Stephen Sondheim’s cannon, 40 songs, in 7 sets, in 70 minutes.
The sheer volume of music in their program would be daunting to most singers. But Ms. Sullivan and Mr. Harnar sailed through with ease and grace, all the while giving this well known repertoire a new level of clarity and relevance.
Each of the seven sets had a clear focus, and used Mr. Sondheim’s lyrics to great effect to create it’s own personal story. In set one, Parallel Lines, it was immediately clear that Sullivan and Harnar are two great cabaret pros, with impeccable (and unique) phrasing. Using lyrics from Our Time, On My Left, Bounce, It Takes Two, and Side by Side by Side, the two singers hilariously set up the premise of their show: “No talking. Just the lyrics of Stephen Sondheim.”
In set two, Who Wants To Live In NY, Ms. Sullivan’s voice soared through No One Has Ever Loved Me, With So Little To Be Sure Of, and So Many People, in a way that had this reviewer salivating to hear her assail the role of Desiree (something that I was sure would be in store, later in the program).
Not to be outdone, Mr. Harnar continued the set with a masterful coupling (arrangement by Jon Weber) of Live Alone and Like It and You Could Drive a Person Crazy (while texting to the object of his obsession). And, in several numbers throughout the performance, Harnar and Sullivan sounded like a cast of 20, filling the room with both toneful sound and lyric intention.
Of particular note was a beautifully staged and arranged rendition of Every Day a Little Death, sung by both Sullivan and Harnar. And, a stunning jazz arrangement (thank you, Mr. Weber) of The Ballad of Sweeney Todd, in which Harnar sealed his reputation as a singular artist.
Both Sullivan and Harnar took turns with gender bending. Harnar with You Could Drive a Person Crazy, and a surprisingly relatable Could I Leave You?, and Sullivan with vocally and visually stunning renditions of Pretty Women and Johanna, as well as a comical Buddy’s Blues.
Throughout the show, both singers claimed the spotlight in equal measure, creating a symbiosis, one organism dedicated to Mr. Sondheim’s words and music. The performance came to a crescendo with a surprising duet of Send in the Clowns. And, Though I had been looking forward to hearing Sullivan take on this song, I was not at all disappointed. Of course, these two veteran performers would exceed expectations by taking us to places we didn’t even know we wanted to go.
Directed by Broadway veteran Sondra Lee, and brilliantly arranged and accompanied by Mr. Weber, this performance could easily transfer to an off-Broadway theater. And if Sullivan, Harnar, Weber, and Lee decide to reprise this show, run, don’t walk, to get tickets!