Entertainment » Music

Brian De Lorenzo :: Big Apple Bound

by Kevin Scott Hall
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Thursday Aug 22, 2013

New York isn't the only game in town when it comes to a life in theater and cabaret. Boston's Brian De Lorenzo has been carving out a formidable reputation as a singer and actor in his home city for many years. This month, however, he brings his acclaimed Nat King Cole tribute show to New York's Metropolitan Room on August 24th.

The busy actor has dozens of theater credits on his resume, and has been active in both Boston and New York cabaret scenes for several years. He appeared twice at Chicago's Cabaret Convention and once at New York's famed Mabel Mercer Convention.

De Lorenzo, who grew up in the Boston suburb of Weymouth, MA, has been focused on music since a very young age. "When I was nine, my parents bought a second-hand piano, and I said yes to piano lessons," De Lorenzo told me. "My father was and still is a singer, and three of my four sisters all took piano lessons and sing, and my sister Elaine Spitz is a professional." In fact, the De Lorenzo Family Singers often took to the stage for charity events at their church.


Beginnings

De Lorenzo auditioned for and got one of the boy soprano roles in Benjamin Britten’s "Saint Nicholas," which was being done by a local community chorus. After one of his Catholic schoolteachers heard him sing, she convinced his parents to enroll him in a new choir school that met on Saturdays. There, he studied music and appeared in more shows.

Later, De Lorenzo studied musical theater at the State University of New York/Fredonia. While there, he sang in a chamber choir that, at one point, traveled to Israel. "I remember we sang the spiritual ’Ain’t Got Time to Die’ at a concert in Rehoboth and the feeling was amazing," he said. "That’s what we love as performers, when we connect and something greater than ourselves emerges."

After school, De Lorenzo moved back to the Boston area and began winning roles in regional theaters. "It was advantageous to be outside of New York for theater," De Lorenzo explained. "In New York, it’s almost all union work, but smaller theater companies can hire non-union talent and you can earn points toward union membership that way. That’s how I got my Equity card." He laughed. "Of course, now that I’m in the union, it’s sometimes harder to get work!"


Character actor? Leading man?

De Lorenzo also encountered a casting issue. "I kind of look like a character actor but I sing like a leading man," he said.

During fallow periods, he worked in various capacities for building engineering firms and financial firms.

As often happens with talented performers who fall into that gray area between character and leading man, they take matters into their own hands and start developing their own shows.

"Around 1994, there were a few people in Boston giving classes to aspiring cabaret performers," De Lorenzo said. "Around that time, Someone placed a notice on the StageSource hotline looking for others interested in starting a local cabaret organization. I thought it was a great idea because it’s hard to know what to do, so I contacted them."


The BACA connection

That meeting of the minds led to the Boston Association of Cabaret Artists (BACA). De Lorenzo was a founding member and also started the BACA newsletter. "It was good to have one core group that met on a regular basis so we could help each other out," he said. BACA also held open mike nights on a regular basis, in church basements and such.

"It’s really good to go to the bars and open mikes and work with an accompanist you’ve never worked with before," De Lorenzo advised.

In 2001, De Lorenzo won the Talent America competition. "It’s a national competition but it starts with regionals, and it’s not just singing and not just adults - there are many categories," he said. The national finals were held in New York, and De Lorenzo won in the adult category. "I sang ’Love Can’t Happen’ from ’Grand Hotel,’" he remembered.

Outside of performing, De Lorenzo loves travel and photography, especially noting historic architecture and preservation. "If I couldn’t perform, I’d probably do city planning," he said. "I’m very picky about what I see in towns and how they are put together."


Boston v. NYC

One of the things he loves about Boston is its historic aspect. "It’s also a very walkable city, and the theater scene is really good right now," he noted. De Lorenzo will be appearing in an upcoming production of "Next to Normal" at the NextDoor Theatre in Winchester, MA.

As for New York, he also cherishes its performing arts and the people. "You can start up a conversation with strangers in New York, and they will have an opinion," he laughed. "I’m much more comfortable talking to strangers in New York than I am in Boston."

Although early in his career, De Lorenzo auditioned in New York and even rehearsed for a European tour there, he felt the larger city wasn’t a good match for him. Later, he considered it again after he got married and his husband, originally from Long Island, got a job offer in Manhattan. "Ultimately, he didn’t want to leave Boston," De Lorenzo said. "But it helps that his brother lives in Manhattan and we have lots of friends there."

Despite his love for theater music, De Lorenzo revealed that he grew up listening to pop music, which is what led him back to Nat King Cole.

"There were only a few show albums in the house: ’Fiddler,’ ’The Sound of Music,’ ’Godspell.’ But my parents listened to the Songbook singers and Nat King Cole was always in the mix," he said.


Discovering Nat King Cole

He added, "For most of my adult life, I loved to find music from obscure musicals, unusual stuff. I wasn’t really performing standards."

That changed when he began collecting the Capitol Sings series of CD box sets that came out in the ’90s. "They were basically repackaged as Songbook albums and there was a lot of Nat King Cole on them," he said. Over a year ago, he was asked to find material for a benefit and he rediscovered the classic singer.

"Last year, I was on vacation in Puerto Vallarta with my husband and I had picked up a bio on Nat King Cole by Daniel Mark Epstein," he said. " I couldn’t stop reading it, because I found his life so fascinating. He was a wonderful musician and pianist, and I also couldn’t believe such a talented, soft-spoken person was treated so awfully by people, especially in the south and in Las Vegas."

The Nat King Cole Songbook show was born, which he first performed at Boston’s Scullers Jazz Club in March. "Once in a blue moon you’re at a cabaret show and you know something extraordinary is going on," Cabaret Scenes magazine raved.

"This is the first solo show I’ve done with a band, which is really exciting," De Lorenzo said.

Brian De Lorenzosings The Nat King Cole Songbook on Saturday, August 24, 2013, 7pm, at the Metropolitan Room, 34 West 22nd Street, New York City, New York. Go to www.metropolitanroom.com for information about tickets to the show on August 24. Visit www.briandelorenzo.com for more information about the singer.


Kevin Scott Hall is the author of Off the Charts! (2010, iUniverse) and the memoir, A Quarter Inch from My Heart (2014, Wisdom Moon).


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