Brian Nash & Nate Buccieri

May 2, 2016 | By

Brian Nash & Nate BuccieriBrian Nash and Nate Buccieri are two of the best in the piano bar business. If one of them is at the piano, patrons are assured of a good time, great playing, strong vocals, high energy, and raucous humor. Having worked together on a number of, as they put it, “big gay cruises,” they began to duet, both vocally and pianistically. They had such a good time working together they decided to present some highlights of their time at sea and on foreign shores in a cabaret show in their hometown at Feinstein’s/54 Below. The result is “Snuggling Pianos”—so named because the traditional phrase, “dueling pianos,” seemed much too violent.

The graphic for their poster/flyer has the two charmingly seated at tiny toy pianos facing each other. Sure enough, on the cabaret stage, along with two electric keyboards and the regular grand was the toy piano, which Buccieri used to begin the proceedings with a silly but effective intro to Kander and Ebb’s “All That Jazz,” from Chicago. Midway through the song, Nash slinked onto the stage mimicking the choreography from the Broadway smash, having great fun with the exaggerated movements and pulling it off surprisingly well. Here was a hidden talent not allowed to flourish in the sedentary world of piano bars. He made his way to the stage right keyboard as Buccieri positioned himself at the stage left, and they joined forces, voices, and pianos in a truly thrilling climax to the number.

The high promise of this opening was not exactly dashed, but certainly dimmed by the second number, the numbingly overdone “Walking In Memphis” (Marc Cohn), which, while it may be a hit among the “tourists” on a cruise ship, in the middle of NYC proved to be the bore that it has become, even with their high energy attack on it.

They delighted in “rescuing” traditional duets from their distaff versions, reveling in the rarity of two men doing these numbers. “Happy Days Are Here Again/Get Happy” (Milton Ager, Jack Yellen/ Harold Arlen, Ted Koehler) was a particular highlight, with Nash’s sly Streisand-isms adding just the right satirical touch. “I Know Him So Well” (Tim Rice, Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus) showed their powerful, soaring vocals to great advantage and did justice to this great song. “Cell Block Tango” (Kander & Ebb) was filled with campy vocal impressions of the original recording. It was almost as enjoyable watching how much fun they were having with it as it was listening to it.

One of the pitfalls of doing a show of highlights from previous sets, gigs, and appearances is that a sameness can settle into the proceedings, and the pair did not avoid that pitfall. So many songs began low (or medium) energy and built and built to huge endings. They do have the voices for this, but they didn’t need to prove it so often. At times, even the keys remained the same, song to song. The singers kept returning to the same moment (albeit with different material) over and over and over. Both “Fuckin’ Perfect” (Pinnk, Max Martin, Shellback) and “Waterfalls” (Marqueze Etheridge. Lisa Lopes, Organized Noize) fell victim to the piano bar cliché syndrome of “Walking In Memphis”: overdone songs sung in their original versions without any reinvention or lyric investigation. Apart from the presence of two pianos and two voices, these could be heard (and probably will be heard) in any piano bar on any given night in the city in pretty much these arrangements. I would have liked to see the pair get serious more of the time; too many songs were undone by a misplaced smile or laugh, as if they didn’t want to let things get too deep.

There was so much talent on the stage, and so much good will engendered by the performers’ charming, funny personalities, that I wish more time and energy had been put into shaping a show, telling a story with the lyrics, and taking advantage of the unique sound of “snuggling pianos” to come up with truly inventive arrangements. Hopefully, now that their “greatest hits” have been dispensed with, Brian Nash and Nate Buccieri can push themselves in new and exciting directions. The pairing is a strong one, but presently in need of an equally strong show.

“Snuggling Pianos”
Feinstein’s/54 Below  –  April 16

Category: Reviews

About the Author ()

Gerry Geddes has conceived and directed a number of musical revues—including the Bistro- and MAC Award-winning "Monday in the Dark with George" and "Put On Your Saturday Suit-Words & Music by Jimmy Webb"—and directed many cabaret artists, including André De Shields, Helen Baldassare, Darius de Haas, and drag artist Julia Van Cartier. He directs "The David Drumgold Variety Show," currently in residence at Manhattan Movement & Arts Center, and has produced a number of recordings, including two Bistro-winning CDs. He’s taught vocal performance at The New School, NYU, and London’s Goldsmith’s College and continues to conduct private workshops and master classes. As a writer and critic, he has covered New York’s performing arts scene for over 40 years in both local and national publications; his lyrics have been sung by several cabaret and recording artists. Gerry is an artist in residence at Pangea, and a regular contributor to the podcast “Troubadours & Raconteurs.” He just completed a memoir of his life in NYC called “Didn’t I Ever Tell You This?”

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