by Joe Regan Jr.
About a year ago KT Sullivan and Jeff Harnar performed an acclaimed Steven Sondheim show. Now Sullivan and Harnar are doing Another Hundred People, Sondheim: ACT II at the Laurie Beechman. The musical director and vocal collaborator on this show is Jon Weber and it’s directed by Sondra Lee.
What is remarkable about Harnar and Sullivan is that for all the years they have been doing cabaret—in their own shows or together—their vocal power has not diminished one bit. In fact, their voices are more powerful than ever, and their physical appearance belies that they may have found some Dorian Grey portraits, for they are both so youthful looking. “Sondheim: Act II” is built upon narrative links of different songs, not necessarily from the same Sondheim shows but making emotional and logical sense. There is absolutely no patter in the show, with the songs blending into each other, many sung in unfamiliar tempos (e.g. “Another Hundred People” is sung in a very slow tempo which lends a sadness to those lyrics).
The show actually begins with Weber doing a rip roaring instrumental of “Comedy Tonight,” then Sullivan comes up from the back of the room in a beautiful, pale pantsuit, and rhinestones in her hair; then, without pause sings “Barcelona” very slowly and regretfully against Weber’s “Bobby” part. When Sullivan and Harnar sing together there are several songs from “Bounce” which meld into “It Takes Two” and “Side by Side by Side.” During the show one becomes aware what powerful actors they are, never striking a false emotional note. Harnar demonstrates this so well in his versions of “No One Has Ever Loved Me,” “With So Little To Be Sure Of,” and “So Many People.” Sullivan, who is singing at her best ever, makes some great choices. When she sings a rueful “Going Going Gone,” we know her beautiful soprano can hit that last lyric “gone” with a full high note, but she chooses to sing it as a hushed sigh, which makes it even more effective. She also chooses not to sing “Every Day A Little Death” comically, but as a sad, rueful, tear-inducing song. She switches to a male role, singing all the parts of the comical “Buddy’s Blues” without changing the lyrics! Baby-faced Harnar goes full demon and maniac in his frightening attack on “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd.”
I am not going to list all forty selections but many of them are unfamiliar or discarded songs, and many of them are sung in unfamiliar tempos, which makes the lyrics even more effective. We even get the first song Sondheim ever, “How Do I Know,” which he wrote as a student for his mentor, Oscar Hammerstein. Towards the end, when the duo performs “Our Time” they hobble forward on invisible crutches, a touch Sullivan stated that Lee suggested. By the way, the lighting and sound by Abby Judd are perfection, despite a run-through only an hour before.
Another Hundred People, Sondheim: Act II continues at the Laurie Beechman Wednesday July 15, 22, and 29 at 7 PM. Reservations are a must because the first show was sold out. For reservations go to www.westbank.café.com/beechman_theatre.html or call 212 332-3101
Photos: Maryann Lopinto