Reviewed by Joe Regan Jr.
For several years now, in many different venues, KT Sullivan has presented a program dedicated to a specific year featuring songs that were written in that year, performers, personalities, and politicians that were born in that year. This year “Remembering 1914” was performed at the Urban Stages Theatre on, October 26th, as a benefit for the Mabel Mercer Foundation. Ably supported on the piano by Jon Weber, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of appropriate songs from the mention of a name (Leo Durocher cued “Take Me Out To The Ball Game”), her guest stars were Eric Yves Garcia, Valerie Lemon, Stacey Sullivan, and there were special appearances by her husband, Steve Downey, and her musical mother, Elizabeth Sullivan.
The first song that KT sang was a song written about Ireland, with lyrics about a little piece of heaven dropping to earth and being named “Ireland,” followed by “Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral (That‘s An Irish Lullaby,)” a song familiar from “Going My Way”.
Debbi Bush Whiting (in the audience) provided KT with a rare Richard Whiting song, a stride song that Whiting’s grand aunt, Margaret Young, sang swathed in a boa and which was recorded by Sophie Tucker. It was a funny blues song about how she missed the man who had walked out on her, and was obviously sung with twirling boas.
KT stated that Manuel Ponce wrote “Estrellita” in 1914, and in her classical soprano gave us an un-amplified striking performance of that standard encore for operatic divas.
Alphabetically, one of the first names dropped was Robert Alda and Garcia gave us a beautiful rendition of “My Time of Day,” and a rocking “Luck Be A Lady,” both introduced by Alda. Others born in 1914 were Larry Adler, Richard Basehart, Sonny Burke, Jackie Coogan which cued the theme from the Addams Family TV series, and Dorothy Lamour. KT sang an innuendo laden “Personality,” and then Lemon dueted with Weber on “My Favorite Brunette,” also singing Lamour’s “I Remember You” (Follow the Fleet).
Jerome Kern wrote “They Wouldn’t Believe Me” in 1914 for Julia Sanderson in a show entitled “The Girl From Utah” and Garcia stunned us with a lucid performance demonstrating that the melody and lyrics were timeless.
There was patter about Hedy Lamarr, born in 1914, and how she invented the wireless device that became the cell phone. Weber talked about his father at the age of 6 seeing Lamarr in the notorious “Extase.” Eddy Howard was born in 1914 and one of his big hits, when KT was a kid, was “RAGMOP” which became KT’s nickname as a youngster.
Going back to Alfred Drake, Stacy Sullivan and Weber came up with a slow bluesy rendition of “Oh What A Beautiful Morning,” certainly very different than any other version I’ve ever heard.
Because KT’s husband is from Kentucky, she had him come up and recite the lyric to “When You Wore A Tulip” before singing it. And we all joined in to sing along on “When You and I Were Young Maggie Blues” – counter melody.
The finale was a sing along to Irving Berlin’s “Play A Simple Melody,” with half of the house singing the rhythmic counter melody.
Winding it up, all the performers returned to the stage to lead the audience in a reprise sing along, “Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral (That‘s An Irish Lullaby”) led by the Sullivans. The perfect finish!
*Photos: Russ Weatherford