Since the age of four, the prodigious Nicolas King has been performing, with appearances in three Broadway shows (Beauty and the Beast, A Thousand Clowns opposite Tom Selleck, and Hollywood Arms directed by Hal Prince) before turning twelve. From 2002-12, he was on the road as the opening act for his Godmother and mentor Liza Minnelli, and has been the recipient of multiple awards for his outstanding cabaret performances.
All that impressive background information is one way of saying that he’s a natural-born talent, and his latest cabaret show leaves no doubt that he’s been graced with a supremely smooth and rich voice, a positively charming personality, and a suave style and stage presence that epitomize the best of Old New York. Even though he’s still young, the time-honored tradition lives on in his masterful work.
Last night, King made his return to The Green Room 42, accompanied by the Mike Renzi Trio, featuring his long-time collaborator and music director Renzi on piano, Steve Doyle on bass, and Ray Marchica on drums. Performing a meaningful selection of jazz, pop, and Broadway songs in the timely show Hindsight is 2020, it was, as promised, an uplifting evening celebrating the end of the pandemic shutdown, lessons learned and perspectives gained through the ups and downs of the past year, and the music that kept us going. His vision was spot on, as were his superb vocals and signature stylings.
Taking us the through the experiences and emotions that he – and all of us – were faced with during life in the time of the C-word (he refuses to utter the name of that ubiquitous virus again!), King performed a well-chosen set list of world-famous standards and some lesser-known songs, interspersed with his heartfelt commentary. Though not all were classics from the Great American Songbook, he made each and every one sound like it was, or is destined to be, after his flawless performance.
There were a few wistful reflections, on breaking up and regret (a medley of “On Second Thought” and “Here’s that Rainy Day”) and saying goodbye (an especially affecting encore of Carol Burnett’s theme song “I’m so Glad We Had this Time Together” by Joe Hamilton), prefaced by personal stories that made his expressive renditions all the more touching. And there were didactic numbers like Sondheim’s “Children Will Listen” from Into the Woods, reminding us not to be hateful or to set a bad example for the next generation.
But the overall mood was one of happiness and joy, with a beautiful spirit of optimism, a love of New York making its comeback, and the expressed attitude that “the arts are NOT non-essential services,” they’re what get us through the difficulties of life and bring us great pleasure, whether watching a movie on Netflix while in pandemic isolation, or going to a live concert, now that the restrictions are lifted. Hear, hear!
From the upbeat opening medley of “Yes I Can”/”I Can See It” and the ebullient 1932 jazz great “I’ve Got The World on a String” by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler, to the free-spirited mash-up of “I Won’t Grow Up”/“I’ve Got No Strings” (capturing King’s sentiments of feeling like a child on a snow-day at the outset of quarantine), to the sense of supportive camaraderie in “Pick Yourself Up” by Dorothy Fields and Jerome Kern, Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend,” and more, the astonishing vocals, jazzy rhythms, expert scatting, and easy demeanor left the entire house (which included such top-notch musical stars as Marilyn Maye, Sandy Stewart, and Max von Essen) smiling and cheering for the phenomenal talent of the irresistible Nicolas King. I was happy to be among them, and I know you would be, too.
If you missed him this time, Nicolas King will be back at The Green Room 42, located on the 4th floor of the YOTEL, 570 Tenth Avenue, NYC, on Thursday, August 5, beginning at 7 pm. Be sure to get your tickets now.
In the meantime, you can enjoy his latest album Act One: Celebrating 25 Years of Recordings, released in January by Club44 Records and available on Amazon Music and all popular streaming platforms, as well as in physical CD format.