‘Nick Blaemire and the Hustle: Nerd Soul’ at Signature Theatre’s Autumn Cabaret Festival by Douglas Lloyd

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Signature Theater treated an enthusiastic audience on Friday Night to an evening of the smooth, soulful sounds of Nick Blaemire and the Hustle, which was part of Signature’s Autumn Cabaret Festival. Nick Blaemire, who is a native of the DC area, wrote the music and lyrics for Glory Days, and has performed on Broadway in Cry Baby and the most recent revival of Godspell. The Hustle is his amazing funky and nerdy band made up of six talented musicians: Jesse Vargas (keyboards as well as arrangements), Dave Cinquegrana (guitar), Charlie Rosen (bass), Sean McDaniel (drums), Dylan Heaney (saxophone), and Allison Phillips (trumpet).

Nick Blaemire and The Hustle with Jesse Vargas, Charlie Rosen, Allison Philips, Dylan Heaney, Sean McDaniel, and David Cinquegrana. Photo by Michael Jurick.
Nick Blaemire and the Hustle with Jesse Vargas, Charlie Rosen, Allison Philips, Dylan Heaney, Sean McDaniel, and David Cinquegrana. Photo by Michael Jurick.

The band sang many original Blaemire compositions as well as a few outstanding covers of recent popular hits, including Usher’s “You Make Me Wanna.” Their sound is a fusion of 70’s funk with current alternative swag: a kind of Maroon 5 meets Dave Matthews, with a Michael Bublé twist. Many numbers featured Nick’s stellar falsetto register.

The band’s delightful set featured mainly youthful romantic themes, including the upbeat “Let’s Make Out” and “She’s You.” Another highlight was the jazzy “Sleep It Off.” Some of the other songs performed during their hour-plus long set, included sultry new arrangements of tunes for which the band has posted you tube videos: “Headturner,” “Complete,” and “Trouble.”

As a bonus, there was a guest appearance by the always-welcome Nova Payton, who sounded better than ever on Beyonce’s “Love on Top,” accompanied by a grooving Hustle. The evening finished with another Blaemire original, the quieter but stirring “Balancing.”

Throughout the performance, the band were fantastic to watch, putting their whole hearts into their effusive music. Their distinctive nerd-like look only added to the fun, party-like atmosphere in the Ark throughout the show. Nick especially seemed to be having a blast moving around the stage as well as the steps of the Ark, putting on some terrific, sometimes goofy, dance moves, like a guy who is thrilled to be returning to his home turf again.

The Signature audience was very happy to welcome him back.

Running Time: 65 minutes.

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Nick Blaemire and the Hustle: Nerd Soul played for one-night only on Friday, September 6, 2013 at Signature Theatre’s Autumn Cabaret Festival -4200 Campbell Avenue, in Arlington, Virginia. To purchase tickets to the remaining performances through September 21st, call the box office at (703) 820-9771, or purchase them online.