Unbridled passion characterized Anthony Nunziata’s moving performance at Feinstein’s at Hotel Carmichael Saturday, the second night of a two-day run. Back by popular demand from a growing central Indiana fan base, the singer was fresh off his recent engagement at the famed Café Carlyle in New York City.
Appearing for a record fifth time at the elegant club that bears the name of his mentor and songwriting partner, Nunziata was accompanied by David Duncan who is also the music director-pianist for the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir. Duncan has played for Nunziata during his previous shows at the cabaret which opened two years ago and is situated directly east of The Palladium at The Center for the Performing Arts where Michael Feinstein serves as artistic director.
Having reviewed all his past Feinstein’s performances, I certainly knew what to expect but can faithfully report that this was his finest, mostly because there was new material. More importantly Nunziata, who has no shortage of fervor and conviction when he sings, reached deeper, with his formidable range and vocal control, to connect with me and a thoroughly engaged audience.
As far as this particular audience, I am all for a good time, but one woman was a bit too distracting and intrusive due to the ruckus she caused as she interacted noisily from her seat with good-sport Nunziata through much of the show. But that is the nature of live cabaret. You never know what is going to happen in such an intimate setting in which audience participation is often encouraged.
Nunziata, who bills himself as a “romantic singer,” performed a mixed set list that included Italian arias, Broadway tunes, and his original songs. Favorite moments for me came when he sang “Santa Lucia,” Schubert’s “Ave Maria,” “O Sole Mio,” David Foster’s “The Prayer,” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Rogers and Hammerstein’s “Carousel.”
Leaving me to wonder when a wider audience will embrace them for the hope and inspiration they generate were Nunziata’s touching songs “Just One Prayer Away,” written with Maria Christensen during the COVID lockdown, and “I Found a Home,” with Tom Kimmel and Jeff Franzel as cowriters.
Nunziata has always demonstrated his love for music education, whether mentoring for Feinstein’s 2022 summer intensive, the Songbook Academy, or teaching a master class last fall held by Magic Thread Cabaret for the IU Musical Theatre Department senior class at Feinstein’s. He also loves to showcase emerging artists by inviting them as special guests to sing in his shows. In March, he was joined by Carmel singer and former Disney Channel star Amelia Wray, first at Feinstein’s and later at the Catalina Jazz Club in Hollywood.
For this particular show, he invited recent Ball State University graduate Olivia Broadwater who wistfully sang “Since I Fell for You” by Buddy Johnson, recent IU graduate Jonathan Grimes who effortlessly sang “Lucky to Be Me” from Leonard Bernstein’s “On the Town,” and Noblesville High School rising junior Eleanor Wilson who received a standing ovation from many in the crowd when she sang “Heart of Stone” from the musical “Six.” All three who exhibited uncommon poise, superb vocal talent, and strong stage presence, have potential to go far in the entertainment arena if they so choose, and thanks to role models like Nunziata, on the cusp of major stardom, they have a great shot at succeeding.