Review: 'Another Hundred People' Digs Into Stephen Sondheim's Catalog
By Stephen Holden - July 19, 2015
"Another Hundred People," a thrilling new revue at the Laurie Beechman Theater, is the most dramatic example I can remember of how a crash course in the songs of Stephen Sondheim can transform entertainers you thought you knew into beings far more complex and sophisticated than you ever suspected. As its stars, KT Sullivan and Jeff Harnar, dug into Mr. Sondheim's catalog, it was as though they had suddenly grown up.
The revue is the much more adventurous sequel to the team's warmly received show "Our Time," which opened almost exactly a year ago in the same space. Subtitled "Act Two" and incorporating almost no patter, the show, acutely directed by Sondra Lee, is devoid of the sort of ingratiating shtick associated with its stars, both die-hard nostalgists who have built cabaret careers celebrating the American songbook.
For years Mr. Harnar, now in his mid-50s, epitomized the boyish juvenile lead of the sort once played by Robert Morse. Ms. Sullivan's characteristic alter ego has been a zany glamour girl with a light operatic voice. In "Another Hundred People" she abandons that voice, the better to interpret psychologically knotty Sondheim lyrics with a ruthless honesty.
The musical director, the pianist Jon Weber, connected the songs in fleet arrangements that incorporated a light jazz pulse and allusions to Dave Brubeck.
Like "Our Time," "Another Hundred People" slyly revels in sexual ambiguity and in dissolving gender stereotypes, with both performers singing numbers associated with the opposite sex. The first jolt arrived with Mr. Harnar's licentious interpretation of "I Know Things Now," Little Red Riding Hood's song from "Into the Woods," reimagined as a young man's gay initiation. Attached to "More," from the movie "Dick Tracy," the song hinted at sexual addiction and predation.
Throughout the show, carefully edited fragments from as many as four or five songs in a block were sequenced into conceptual threads in which each selection threw light on the one before. In an especially evocative pairing, Ms. Sullivan's version of "The Girls of Summer" was wound around Mr. Harnar's version of "Sand," a little-known song from an unproduced film musical, "Singing Out Loud."
The loss of innocence and cherished romantic illusions were overarching themes reflected in both the song choices and the singers' dry-eyed interpretations of numbers like "Now You Know" and "There Won't Be Trumpets." Perhaps the boldest pairing found the sweetly compassionate parental advice song "Children Will Listen" attached to the gory "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd."
Sex-Role Reversals in Sondheim - KT Sullivan and Jeff Harnar Reflect a New Era
By Stephen Holden - July 10, 2014
"Our Time," the opening number of KT Sullivan and Jeff Harnar's iconoclastic Stephen Sondheim show at the Laurie Beechman Theater on Wednesday evening, is the optimistic dawn-of-a-new-age anthem from "Merrily We Roll Along." It's the 1950s, and there are nothing but blue skies and bright futures ahead in the lives of its naïve musical-theater hopefuls gazing forward with starry-eyed confidence.
But it's not so simple. A subversive double vision soon surfaces and drives the show, directed by Sondra Lee, on an alternative route. The future has already arrived. Great familiar songs are bent to reflect the era of same-sex marriage, gender fluidity and the dissolution of traditional roles. Once-unquestioned verities about what it means to be a man and a woman are under siege.
The evening began conventionally enough, with breezy early Sondheim songs about New York City taken at a breathless clip by the singers and the pianist Jon Weber.
Its vision suddenly warped when Mr. Harnar sang two ballads, "Loving You" and "Losing My Mind," usually attached to women, with a quiet, troubled intensity. It became surreal when he affected an old woman's croak for "The God-Why-Don't-You-Love-Me Blues," from "Follies," followed by his sober, introspective "Send In the Clowns" set to dissonant jazz harmonies.
Ms. Sullivan's sly, seductive "Pretty Women" and "Johanna" infused both these ballads from "Sweeney Todd" with an almost predatory erotic subtext as she delivered the warning, "I'll steal you, Johanna" as a sexual provocation.
In a edley of songs (mostly from "Company") about marital anxiety, sung by Mr. Harnar, the groom (instead of the bride) balked at the last minute.
Ms. Sullivan astutely reinterpreted "In Buddy's Eyes" and "Being Alive" as wised-up, bitterly cynical expressions of marital boredom and stagnation by a wife feeling trapped in her marriage. In Mr. Harnar's "Could I Leave You?" the song's threat was issued by an older man's angry, avaricious younger male partner.
If the show occasionally pushed too hard to surprise, it worked. The considerable acting talents of Ms. Sullivan, who has never been more fearless, and Mr. Harnar gave the songs a bite that left tooth marks.