KT Sullivan Goes Retro: A Cabaret Space Carved Out of Bedrock


Courtesy of publicist Joe Trentacosta comes word of a new cabaret space dedicated to the old tunes of yore.


Four Successive Thursdays – Aug. 20 and 27 and Sept. 3 and 10

There’s a part of NYC sadly bereft of the “old-time” New York music it was largely responsible for creating. That’s Lower Manhattan, once known for music and merriment, later for formality and frugality. How much that’s changed, along with rapid residential growth in Battery Park City, Tribeca and the Wall Street area itself! What hasn’t happened, amid the rebuilding and revitalization, is creation of a high quality Downtown cabaret scene, one for live singing, of the Great American Songbook, worthy of these sophisticated neighborhoods – that is, ’til now!

Enter acclaimed City Hall Restaurant at 131 Duane St. in the heart of Tribeca. For a decade owner-chef Henry Meer has created an homage to Father Knickerbocker. Ruth Reichl wrote in the New York Times, “If you crossed the 21 Club with Balthazar and threw in a bit of the Oyster Bar, you would have something like City Hall. No wonder everybody likes the place so much…there is a perfect balance of young and old …you get the sense of being in the exact center of the New York world.”

The restaurant itself has won accolades and critical acclaim, but what’s really exciting is underneath it all – The Granite Room, ‘Neath the Sidewalks of New York, its walls and ceilings literally cut from Manhattan bed-rock – just waiting for the music.

Now visualize leading New York cabaret and concert hall chanteuse KT Sullivan channeling Helen Morgan sitting on the piano. Imagine Texas Guinan strutting her stuff and Diamond Lil (aka Lillian Russell) challenging Diamond Jim Brady to an oyster eating contest and you’ll glimpse the picture – the kinds of worlds KT will be entering and rediscovering when she inaugurates the new room with a four show engagement on successive Thursday’s in August and September.

Everything about the experience will be natural, authentic, friendly and “timeless.” Ms. Sullivan will concentrate on “old” songs, yet songs still with us, still fondly recalled. There’s a reason for that! They’re melodically, lyrically and emotionally memorable. They’ve stood the test of time. Some date back to the late 1800s – ranging from the Gay 90s, to a hopeful new Century, through “The War to End All Wars” with its dashed illusions, to the Roaring 20s that some viewed as the “end to civilization.”

Great songs will range from the lightness of operetta, including Victor Herbert and Sigmund Romberg, as well as a Merry Widow aria, to the Americana of George M. Cohan and early works of Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin and Cole Porter. Plus familiar songs from all over – Ireland, Austria, Italy!

Kathleen Downey’s Granite Room may be cut below yet it is several cuts above! It’s quiet, ’til it starts to “hum.” It’s cool, in either sense. It’s a place to meet, greet, eat! A place to listen, laugh! A place to revel in the sound of beauty unadorned, in the natural voice, of beauty undistorted by mics, unencumbered by wires, unmodified by speakers.

It’s a level of artistry seldom heard anymore. It relies on proper techniques of trained singers, voice placement, diaphragm support, all necessary to project and sustain notes with purity of sound, where vocal limitations can’t be disguised through electronic wizardry. Thanks to the venue’s unique acoustics, it’s the kind of singing especially suited for Kathleen Downey’s Granite Room…

That rare tour de force combination of talent is what her fans – long-time and in-waiting – are in for. KT’s City Hall schedule is for four successive Thursdays on the 20th and 27th of August and the 3rd and 10th of September, with the show beginning at 8 p.m. Kathleen Downey’s Granite Room opens at 5:30 p.m., combining dinner and show into a recession-conscious $90 package, inclusive of delicious three-course dinner and full hour performance – unplugged as in “sans mic.”

Accompanying Ms. Sullivan is the masterful pianist and jazz great Jon Weber, who’ll also offer special musical interpretations during dinner. Jon’s CD “Simple-Complex” won Best Jazz Album of the Year Award 2004 in the Chicago Tribune’s competition.

For combined dinner reservations and tickets to KT Sullivan’s performances please call City Hall Restaurant at 212-227-7777.