Heir Apparent - Cabaret Wunderkind Nicolas King

by John Amodeo
Monday Mar 14, 2011

If the mantle of Mel Torme is to be passed on to any singers of our generation, it can pass right over Harry Connick Jr., John Pizzarelli, Peter Cincotti, and Michael Buble, and land squarely on the shoulders of Nicolas King.

Why King? Well for one, he can croon, swing, and scat like nobody’s business, and his repertoire is heavily populated with the standards made famous by Torme; as well as Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Sammy Davis Jr., and Peggy Lee. To go one step further, his musical director and accompanist is Mike Renzi, who was Mel Torme’s musical director for thirty years. Renzi has also accompanied some of the greatest names in swing and jazz vocals, including Jack Jones, Liza Minnelli, Tony Bennett, Earth Kitt, Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra, Maureen McGovern, Peggy Lee, and Lena Horne, so his growing relationship with King speaks volumes on King’s musicianship. King’s got talent.

In fact, in his 15-year professional singing career, this Westerly, RI native, who now resides in New York City, has appeared on Broadway three times, beginning with a nine-month run in Beauty and the Beast opposite Andrea McArdle in 2000, A Thousand Clowns opposite Tom Selleck in 2001, and Hollywood Arms opposite Linda Lavin in 2002-03. He has also appeared and performed on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The View, Sally Jesse Raphael (twice), the Ed McMahon Radio Show, the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon (8 years) and (most recently) performing at the opening night gala of the 2010 Mabel Mercer Cabaret Convention in New York. He is also the recipient of the 2010 Julie Wilson Cabaret Award.

Oh, and did I mention he’s only 19 years old?

His cabaret shows have included appearances at Birdland, and several appearances at the Metropolitan Room (both in NYC) where a very impressed. John Hoglund of TheaterScene.com declared, "As one listened to him on jazz/swing versions of tunes from The Andrew Sisters’ like ’Bounce Me With A Solid Four’ to the deceptively demanding Ella Fitzgerald ditty ’Mr. Paganini,’ at ease and in perfect pitch, with a voice that only gains in substance, it’s obvious King is no rank amateur."

If you want to see him perform locally at an affordable price, you have your chance this coming Friday, March 18, where he will be performing An Evening with Nicolas King, at the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center (CMAC), with Renzi on piano, Gary Johnson on drums, and Dave Zinno on bass. This evening is being presented by the Boston Association of Cabaret Artists (BACA).

EDGE had a chance to speak with the very relaxed, sometimes quite coy, but always well-poised King about his musical family, including his grandmother and vocal coach Angela Bacari. (Bacari, a jazz singer and recording artist in her own right, has also been Liza Minnelli’s vocal coach since 2006.) King also speaks of appearing on Broadway at 8, his tour with Liza, his musical influences, and his favorite American Idol contestants.

A family affair

EDGE: Did you sing with your grandmother as a young child?

Nicolas King: We did sing together when I was a kid. She’s been in show business since her early 20s, and naturally growing up with her around, there was a lot of singing. And she’s a vocal coach, in addition, so I grew up in the playpen hearing her give voice lessons. And when I started singing myself, she began to bring me up on stage, and now that I’m on stage, I get to bring her up.

EDGE: The YouTube clip where you both duet on ’Route 66’ is terrific. Will you bring Angela up on stage with you at CMAC?

Nicolas King: It’s possible. There’s always room for some surprises. The ’Route 66’ clip landed us a job together; a big band gig with our big band charts.

EDGE: That ’Route 66’ YouTube clip was shot in Hawaii. How did you manage a gig in Hawaii?

Nicolas King: An agent of mine on the West Coast hired me for this job for the National Electricians Convention, and we sang their cocktail hour for five days. We had a blast. I was complaining that it was only 5 days. We wished it were longer.

EDGE: What was your first professional performance?

Nicolas King: As far as I remember, the first time I performed in front of people was at 4 years old, at the RI Division of the Talent America Contest, which I won. I then went to the National Division and won that.

Story continues on following page:

Watch Nicolas King and Mike Renzi perform a tribute to Mel Torme:


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