Seth Sikes and Nicolas King

Review: The New Belters (Seth Sikes + Nicolas King) Bring MGM Songbook to Boston

John Amodeo READ TIME: 4 MIN.

Some of the most brilliant things happen by accident, are unplanned, or are a simple matter of worlds colliding unexpectedly. That is what happened when a couple of years ago, Broadway belter Seth Sikes ran into jazz crooner Nicolas King in a slightly drunken stupor in the wee hours on Manhattan's 9th Avenue.

Having known of one another but not moving in the same circles, this first meeting led to King filling in for someone who dropped out of a Judy Garland 100th Anniversary Tribute show that Sikes was planning, and the rest, as they say, is history.

The result is The New Belters, possibly the best duo act to hit cabaret and concert stages since Steve and Edie. In planning for King's slot in the Garland Tribute, which included a dynamite duet, the two discovered that that they had more in common than they thought, not least of which, they can both belt like nobody's business.

Like the commercial for Reese's peanut butter cups, when a chocolate eater accidently bumps into a peanut butter eater, getting each other's snacks intermingled, the happy accident results in a triumph.

In this case, it is jazz meets Broadway, and the effervescent synergy between Sikes and King gleefully elevates the combined art forms to levels not reached when each is sung separately. That was certainly the case in their debut show simply titled "The New Belters" which premiered 18 months ago.

The excitement continues with their new show, "The New Belters Sing MGM," which they presented, for only the third time, at the Club Café's Moonshine this past Saturday, April 27. The show consists of a string of songs out of the MGM movie musicals catalog that can't help but strike joy in any listener.

Sikes, whose career included being Assistant Director for the Broadway musical "The Band's Visit," and who, in the past decade, has made the rounds of gay and gay-friendly cabaret venues belting out power ballads of iconic divas like Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand, was born to sing this material, much of it made famous by Garland, herself.

King is a jazzer in the Mel Tormé mold, thanks to working with Tormé's musical director Mike Renzi since the age of 16 until Renzi's death in 2021. But he also has Broadway in his veins, having spent his childhood on the Broadway stage as the longest running Chip in "Beauty and the Beast," and then spending his teenage years as Liza Minnelli's opening act. For King, these MGM songs fit like a glove.

The duets in this show just soar. In the opening pairing of "Strike Up the Band/Shaking the Blues Away," with Sikes' honeyed vibrato and King's finger snapping bluesy inflections, the two mix surprisingly well, egging each other on with private joke smirks, while pushing each other's voices to a belting crescendo that give new meaning to "bring it home!"

The delightful "That's Entertainment" segued into Cole Porte's understandably rarely sung tongue twister "Stereophonic Sound" (from the rarely seen "Silk Stockings"), whose fun lyrics easily tripped of their tongues and mixed with beautifully arranged harmony.

Their Sonny and Cher-like manic and teasing banter was delightfully featured in the peppy "Good Morning'" from "Singin' in the Rain," (1952), which King interrupted good naturedly to correct Sikes by claiming it was originally sung by Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, their first ever duet, in the 1940 MGM film "Babes in Arms".

They keep the energy level high with a "Meet Me in St. Louis" medley given a big finish, and adorable duet on Garland's "The Trolley Song." They were also an especially fun with another rarity -- "The Joint is Really Jumpin' Down at Carnegie Hall" ("Thousands Cheer," 1943), where King even gets Sikes to indulge in scat singing, which he pulled off with aplomb despite insisting it's not his thing.

Sikes gets his retribution, where teaching King to dance during the musical interlude of a "Ballin' the Jack/Alabam'"pairing.

The two absolutely shine in their solos. Sikes sang special lyrics to "That's Entertainment" in tribute to Judy Garland, that then segued into a theatrical "Get Happy" that would have been at home in any MGM movie musical. Proving he's not just a belter, he delivered a sweet and emotionally connected "I Fall in Love Too Easily," introduced by Frank Sinatra in "Anchors Aweigh," smoothly paired with a wistful "But Not for Me."

King charmed with a samba-like "You Stepped Out of the Dream," from "Ziegfeld Girl," almost dreamlike in mood, with a beautiful instrumental solo by pianist Ben Cook and bassist Alan Bernstein, leading into an impressive scat cadenza by King. Holding that mood, King deftly moved into a smoky delivery of "Too Late Now" (from "Royal Wedding") with beautiful vocal texture and true sadness that would have made Tormé and Renzi proud.

But the show never stays poignant too long, for the two belters just pick themselves up and dust themselves off, and head into another skyrocketing duet, such as their "Hit Song Medley" of eight great MGM tunes, that includes the impossibly fast "Aba Daba Honeymoon" and brought to a big finish with "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe," replete with Robert Alton-like rolling train choreography.

Their finale, another mega medley, just whipped itself into a frenzy of celebratory singing that just kept building, even when you thought it couldn't build any further. When they came out for the encore the audience clamored for, their "That's Entertainment," was filled with such delightful brio that it delivered everything they sang about and more. And, that's entertainment.

Seth Sikes + Nicolas King. "The New Belters Sing MGM" @ Moonshine Room, Club Café, Boston MA on April 27, 2024

For more on Seth Sikes, visit the website. For more on Nicolas King, visit his Facebook page.

by John Amodeo

John Amodeo is a free lance writer living in the Boston streetcar suburb of Dorchester with his husband of 23 years. He has covered cabaret for Bay Windows and, and is the Boston correspondent for Cabaret Scenes Magazine.

Read These Next