Orlando Cabaret Festival with KT Sullivan and “It Was A Wonderfu
Orlando Cabaret Festival with KT Sullivan and “It Was A Wonderful Year – 1950”
Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando FL
You can learn a lot hanging out in dive bars. I never heard of Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz, their heyday ran from the Great Depression to the end of WW2, and while they wrote a dozens of very popular revues, not much of their music persists in the public mind and outside of “That’s Entertainment”, their material has faded into a musty obscurity. Soprano crooner KT Sullivan has selected this neglected duo for her show at this year’s Cabaret Fest. Ms. Sullivan appears with noted Jazz pianist Jon Weber, a tall, gangly man with poor posture but great keyboard skills. He hangs over the keyboard, changing his own music and generally keeping a low profile as the more sparkly Ms. Sullivan sings. She often sound like she’s about to break in to a scat, but sticks with her program of material. Songs like “Keep a Shine on Your Shoes” and “Oh but I Do” are clever and tuneful. Some take the novelty bent of the era – “Blue Grass” and “Rhode Island Is Famous For You” picks up on the era’s fascination with the States individuality, while “Alone Together” and “You And The Night And The Music” are just great romantic ballads. Just like Cole Porter or Rogers and Hammerstein, these clever lyrics are still funny and relevant to today’s depression and wars.
I stuck around for a Club Moo show, this one was “It Was A Wonderful Year – 1950”. These are decade themed revues by some of the Mad Cow regulars, and tonight Kevin Kelly, David Kelly (no relation) Krista Abbot and Sara Barnes regaled us with music and Jeopardy level facts about 1950. Sugar Pops and the Xerox machine and the first answer machine came from the flannel clad years, along with hits by Earnest Tubb and Doris Day and Pattie Page. Most of this material was new to me; the Bob Hole novelty song “Blind Date” was both funny and reflective of the sexual mores and boundary of the post war generation. A rare Perry Como polka “Hoopty Doo” brought back painful memories of German dance halls in the Midwest, and songs from “They Call Me Madam” and “Guys and Dolls” filled the last half hour. Even a Mario Lanza tune came from the lips of Kevin Kelly – you may not remember Lanza exactly, but his voice backed up more than a few weak throated leading men.
If you’ve survived the arty intensity of the Florida Film Fest and psyching yourself up for the sensory overload of The Orlando Fringe, these cabaret acts are nice sorbet for your theatrical palette. Cabaret Fest runs for three weekends and has plenty of midweek shows and all of them will make you feel like dressing nicely enough to get the Library Garage girl to say – “Oh, you must be here for Mad Cow.” See? Good manners ARE infectious!