Thursday, June 17, 2010

Review - From Pelham to Park Avenue, Will and Anthony Nunziata at Feinstein's

By Leonard Bertolino

In April Feinstein’s was the venue for the debut of identical twin brothers Will and Anthony Nunziata's From Pelham to Park Avenue. The show was, simply put, a joy. What makes this team novel rather than a novelty act of days of yore rests on several prime ingredients: paramount is vocal talent, add unbounding charm, a handsome pair, and immediate audience rapport.

I had the pleasure of a chance meeting on a recent Friday night with Will at Vice Versa, an upscale midtown restaurant. I introduced myself and we had a wonderful conversation in which we discussed the act. Will graciously and openly accepted my comments for consideration and shared certain of his own criticism.

From Pelham to Park Avenue was entertaining, lively, energetic and a wonderful display of easy interaction between Will and Anthony with each completing the other’s sentences. What I told Will immediately was that I wanted to hear more singing from the duo. Their voices are warm, nearly identical in timbre, yet they exhibit nuances of distinct personality. The show is personality rich: for young performers they offer so much to an audience, as I said to Will, you just want to ‘give them a big hug.’ They embrace their audience with an ease that more seasoned cabaret performers would admire.

The duo appear even younger onstage than face-to-face at a restaurant. I assume they are 20-something, yet they reminisce often, perhaps too often, in their banter. After all, time gone by for them seems but a day for the average age of the cabaret goer, who in my case is 50-something. Yet, their enthusiasm and honesty is a saving grace for what I deem a faux pas in their program. As I said earlier, I want to hear them sing.

The singing: warm, rich, accomplished, note perfect and true. This is immediately recognized from their entrance. On the night at Feinstein’s in April, the opening number “Swing Is Back in Style” lets you know these two can sing. The number fails to set up the show that follows for the show is not essentially a swing review. A tighter program is called for thematically, and this pair can handle the emotional depth of challenging music. That is apparent from Anthony's soulful rendition of “Willow Weep for Me,” to Will's tender yearning in “Teach Me Tonight,” and the Sondheim duet “Pretty Women.”

Will commented to me that others have said they should steer away from Sondheim since their youth might offer an obstacle to the depth of the material. I disagree. These two performers have the musical sensitivity and nuance to share feelings with an audience as felt in the powerful Sondheim “No More” from “Into the Woods.” Will delivers this song with a showman’s elan. I feel the audience only wants more, as much as they are willing to reveal.

The two share their family stories with relish and heartfelt sincerity. Their stories are fun and funny, yet a fine tuning of their exchange would make the show tighter. Will commented that they are a sentimental pair and are prone to reminiscing. He was also savvy in his insight that they could set up the songs from the '30s and '40s with the simple comment that they were born out of time. The brothers definitely have an affinity for great music from the period. Their rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In” a la Louis Armstrong coupled with "Lullaby of Broadway” seemed new again, that’s saying something since I am a New Orleanian and such an iconic song for us might easily go awry. It didn’t. It brought tears to my eyes.

Speaking of iconic pairings, it is a jewel in their crown that the two pull off in encore “Happy Days Are Here Again/Get Happy.” This duet was phenomenal in its success in their delivery. That these two young performers could own the Garland/Streisand gem says it all.

Do not miss Will and Anthony Nunziata as they make their way into the cabaret spotlight. Their show is directed by the veteran talent Richard Jay Alexander who boasts associations with Streisand and Bernadette Peters among others. Mr. Alexander also enjoyed a pivotal role in directing Broadway’s long time success Les Miserables. He knows talent. His involvement with Will and Anthony is exciting and portends the highest accolades for the two.

Will and Anthony Nunziata are slated to appear this summer in West Palm Beach and Westport, Connecticut among other venues. Check out their website for info. Friend them on Facebook. You might receive your own personal message from these charming, talented performers. These two are not to be missed.

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