Nicolas King: Shakin’ the Blues Away!

| June 16, 2015

Nicolas King

Shakin’ the Blues Away!

Birdland, NYC, June 14, 2015

Reviewed by Elizabeth Ahlfors for Cabaret Scenes

Photo: Stephen Sorokoff

Photo: Stephen Sorokoff

These days, Nicolas King is king of swing and the mood is 18-karat cool as he casts a feel-good mood over an almost-summer audience at Birdland. For this dynamo, the way to shake your blues away is “Swing, Swing, Swing” and with Mike Renzi at the piano, Tom Hubbard on bass, and Ray Marchico on drums, King swings hard. His pitch is perfect and his stage presence is easy breezy. He can croon and scat and has excellent taste in choosing songs.

Today, well past the heyday of nightclub entertainers when Bobby Darin captured a stage and entranced an audience, here comes Nicolas King, a 20-something polished professional. He has been on stage since age four and was in three Broadway shows before 12, including Beauty and the Beast. No surprise that his songbook has influences of theater, jazz and standards. Well-trained vocal chops and natural energy have brought him to numerous television shows, the Mabel Mercer Foundation’s Cabaret Convention, winning a Julie Wilson Cabaret Award and Bistro Award. He has several mentors, including his grandmother who is a jazz teacher, and no small credit goes to the mentorship of Mike Renzi, who has accompanied the best of the best in the American songbook. The swing and versatility of jazz powers like Mel Tormé and the stage energy of Sammy Davis, Jr. are studied by numerous performers and it’s easy to sense their influences on Nicolas King.

The title song, “Shakin’ the Blues Away” (Irving Berlin), promises to get rid of “unhappy news,” settle back with a drink and get the toes tapping. Once King starts, he keeps going. Admittedly he veers just a bit from the feel-good ambiance with a pairing of “Goody Goody” (Matty Malneck and Johnny Mercer) and “I Wanna Be Around,” written from an idea sent to Mercer by an Ohio housewife, Sadie Vimmerstedt, who sent him the first line. (Mercer wrote the song and Vimmerstedt received 50% of the royalties.) An even more quiet mood came with the addition of Michel Legrand/Alan and Marilyn Bergman’s duo from Yentl: “Where Is It Written” and “The Way She (He) Makes Me Feel.” Lately King has infected his ballads with more emotion.

Importantly, he is the rare entertainer who always stays completely present in the show and this connection brings an infectious communication between audience and performer. The 11-o’clock number is Dorothy Fields and Jerome Kern’s “Pick Yourself Up” from Swingtime, a memorable arrangement by Renzi for Mel Tormé and a strong dose of high-octane energy for King. Also notable was the punchy determination of “I Will Wait for You” by Legrand with Norman Gimbel’s English lyric.

Adding Elton John/Bernie Taupin’s “Rocket Man” to the lineup was a shrewd nod by an ebullient performer on a rocket ride fueled by some top-of-the-line confreres.

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Category: Cabaret Reviews, New York City, New York City Cabaret Reviews

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