Will Nunziata wore glasses so I might easily distinguish between him and his identical twin, Anthony. As children, their mother often dressed one in red and one in blue, a first effort to define individuality. She saw to it they were in different classes growing up and made it a point to encourage any separate interest. ‘Smart woman. Today they look like something out of an Abercrombie and Fitch ad, slim, healthy and classically patrician. Will is wearing a neat t shirt and sandals, Anthony a button down shirt and spinnakers.
Both young men are opinionated. They regularly break into one another’s responses with clarification or alternate view, but do so in a completely unique and deferential fashion. The unlikely phrase most often bridging interruption? “I love you.” Thus Will might say, I love you, Anthony and without pausing go on to lead the story elsewhere. Or Anthony might intercede with I love you Will, I got this, offering a different explanation. Any implication of criticism seems immediately and cleverly defused. The moments register, but never evoke anger.
Interviewing the Nunziata brothers is like sitting at the center of a robust ping pong game. They’re confident, indefatigable, watchful, and more or less equally matched, but play differently.
At 17 months, Will, left, Anthony right
“Our parents say we started singing in the womb. “There’s a video of our humming and singing (making sustained musical sounds) to one another from separate cribs before we could talk.” (Will) Their mother plays piano, their father, an amateur actor/singer, plays trumpet. Both sang to the boys. While others lived with a soundtrack of Madonna and New Kids on the Block, Will and Anthony were accustomed to Broadway, American Songbook, Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. Will recalls belting out “Fly Me to the Moon” from the swing set. The Neapolitan songs of Nunziata grandparents were also present and are often featured in their acts. Will calls Anthony his personal PBS Special when the latter waxes poetic about ancestry.
Dressed By Mom, Will, left, Anthony, right
“We started performing in nursery school. Videos show the chorus with only Will and I gesticulating while everyone else just stands there. He volunteered for all the solos…” (Anthony) “I never felt more comfortable than on stage.” (Will) In 4th grade, they began to act at Pelham Children’s Theater (a community enterprise.) Will played Michael Darling to Anthony’s head lost boy in Peter Pan. “I still remember the harmony to “Tender Shepherd.” (Will) “When Slightly Soiled, that’s my name got the biggest laugh in the show, I realized I could be funny.” (Anthony) Still, it took another year for Anthony to comprehend he was “not just Will’s shadow” and go after his own solos.
With the Cast of Charlie Brown
Mrs. Nunziata says she knew “from the beginning” the boys would work together no matter what they chose to do. With 25 at the holiday table, her sons would migrate towards one another from opposite sides until their chairs were pushed up against one another. She knew they’d be thespians when they were in the third grade and that they’d perform together by the sixth when Will, as Charlie Brown, refused to sing “The Kite Song” solo unless it was rearranged to include Anthony’s Linus. (You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown) “Musical Director Debbie Meyers (who fostered their talent through high school) made it a duet and the rest is history.”
Anthony reads music, Will does not. Both young men have accomplished memories. “I can hear a song a number of times and it’s in me.” (Will) Neither took a voice lesson until college. “Before or after rehearsals, we were fortunate to have unofficial mini lessons. I think I learned to breathe by imitating my favorite singers.” (Anthony) Will also attributes lung power to their parents fostering athletics. “We swam, ran, played tennis and were varsity athletes. I think swimming gave me my foundation.” The brothers hear harmonies and “just know who does the top part and when.”
Will and Anthony were never pushed into show business. Their only truly professional gig as kids was singing a Cheerios jingle. Mr. Nunziata was in advertising. “The commercial was a confidence builder. All the kids knew. Neither of us considered pursuing it.” (Will) “They overdubbed our voices. We replaced The Harlem Boys Choir. When I look back, it was about not wanting to change our lives. I liked the well roundedness of what we were doing.” (Anthony) They were taken to theater in Manhattan both by the progressive school system in which they were enrolled and by their parents. “Driving down the highway in our black Volvo station wagon-my mom was, and still is, in the driver’s seat, dad turned around and taught us our first two-part harmony on the way to Broadway.” (Will)
Though they got into separate schools, the boys both chose Boston College. Anthony was a Communication Broadcast major (he minored in theater) considering following in the footsteps of their grandfather, a career announcer. Will, who had contemplated the same profession and moved on, studied Theater Arts. They serendipitously auditioned for their first campus show on the way to try out for the tennis team. “I like to say, we began our freshman year with me crucifying my brother.” (Will) The production was Godspell. Continuing a history of tandem roles, Will played Judas, Anthony, Jesus. “People told us we had great energy together.” (Anthony) And then everything fell into place.
While students at Boston College, Will and Anthony Nunziata were chosen by their chorale director as soloists for a fundraising concert with The Boston Pops. They sang Stephen Sondheim’s “Our Time” from Merrily We Roll Along: “It was at the moment we were singing—I’ll never forget it—Something is stirring/ shifting ground/It’s just begun… I had never felt more connected with a lyric. I looked at the orchestra and my brother and I thought, this is what WE are going to do with our lives.” (Will) It’s our time, breathe it in/Worlds to change and worlds to win/Our turn coming through/Me and you, pal/Me and you! “It hit me at the end of the song, the me and you pal, me and you. Everything came together. We never asked each other.” (Anthony)
“It was on that day 4 years before our grandma had passed away. Afterwards, my dad started tearing up and reminded us. We were very close to her.”(Will) “My first introduction to the show itself was the 2012 Encore production. I cried from the beginning.” Interestingly, Anthony’s epiphany was a two-parter. “I also looked at it from a branding perspective. Even though we’re artists, I learned to be business oriented from my dad, bless him. I thought as brothers, we could explore the special unit we had as well as our individualism. It’s making more and more sense.” (Anthony)
Cleveland Pops with Conductor Carl Topilow
Mentor and Boston College alumnus, Michael Frasier—“I still hear his soothing, grandfatherly voice” (Anthony)—suggested Will and Anthony first learn the business of entertainment. Directly after graduation, they began interning with Richard Frankel Productions—Anthony in the Executive Pit, Will in Development. “I learned to be passionate about what you do, to be the best you can be, and money will follow.” (Anthony) “I learned that everything is a part of our business, the way we dress, the songs we sing, the way we conduct ourselves in public…”(Will) An invaluable experience. At the same time, they sent out 50 demo CDs and got hired sight-unseen by Carl Topilow, conductor of The Cleveland Pops Orchestra, later performing with him and The Colorado Symphony. “Concert choices were collaborative depending on what we knew and what they had in their library. We had no charts yet.” (Anthony) Makes one believe in fairy god people.
Through recommendations by the Frankel office, Anthony received an Observership at City Center “usually given to people with Masters degrees out of Brown. I got to shadow director Jerry Zaks for Encore’s Stairway to Paradise: 50 Years of Revue (conceived by Jack Viertel). Jerry Zaks framed things. He orchestrated people. When he found the comic moment, it was: ‘there it is!-wait…beat!’ Then his hands shot up and he jumped up and down like a little kid. I loved the musicality of his direction and his enthusiasm.” (Anthony)
Meanwhile, Will was hired to be an assistant to Lonny Price who was directing the revival of Jones/Schmidt/Nash’s 110 in the Shade. As boys, the brother’s favorite musical had been Ragtime. “I put something into the universe when I saw that show, to work with Audra McDonald one day.” And here she was. “I’d never met a singing actor who could be so vulnerable on a dime, so truthful.” (Will) “I just want to share a moment if that’s ok. I remember Ragtime content wise because here were singing actors at a level of palpable intensity…” (Anthony) Among other duties, Will ran lines with John Cullum. “Every day during rehearsal, John would go to a pay phone and call his wife to say ‘hi.’ It was very touching and reminded me that even stars are human. Silly, I know.” (Will)
The Nunziatas were put in touch with a booking agent in search of a duo to sing Broadway standards and schmaltzy Italian numbers on a Costa Cruise Ship touring the Caribbean. At 23, the untried vocalists were hired as headliners. It was time to put together an act. “Thank God the Egg Split,” a twins show, previewed at The Laurie Beechman Theater. “We got laughs doing what we thought people wanted to see, not being who we were.” (Will) “We had to start somewhere. I’m hoping people who saw us then have seen us since. And -I got this (with a nod to stop Will’s interjection), Kenny, a friend from William Morris, brought John Iachetti (Director of Entertainment at Loew’s Hotels)” (Anthony) Iachetti saw potential but felt the act wasn’t ready for Feinstein’s.
Still, they had something with which to start and the chance to shape it in front of an audience. Required to perform only once a week, Will and Anthony could’ve been flown out and back. They chose instead to remain on the ship the full 4 ½ months. “Our parents said, ‘boys, enjoy it. Travel while you’re young.’ We were in a room the size of a closet but perceived as stars, while more experienced casts of production shows were not treated as well. It was a lesson in humility.” (Anthony) In their spare time, the brothers explored new countries and created 2 dozen webisodes called “The Showbiz Adventures of Will and Anthony” which were posted on YouTube—a harbinger of projects that may one day be pursued. “We honed our chops and began to develop a fan base.” (Will)
Returning to the city, the duo created Our Time, a “more adult” act for the Beechman. On the basis of that show, Donald Smith (then Executive Director of The Mabel Mercer Foundation), invited Will and Anthony to participate in the foundation’s next two Cabaret Conventions. It was their introduction to a large New York City audience. “Donald was kind of a godfather. He not only introduced us to people who became major followers, he was always just an advice phone call away.” (Will) Feeling somewhat seasoned, they reconnected with, and were welcomed by Feinstein’s in 2010 and 2011. Director Richard J. Alexander “was a great coach and champion of ours.” Director Eric Michael Gillett “found our core, who we were as artists.” First reviews were secured eliciting bookings all over the country.
“We both wake up at 9 a.m. for the office of Will and Anthony, connect by telephone or email every day, and love hanging out, but have very separate personal lives.” (Anthony) They don’t live together. The duo now has a lawyer, a booking agent and an assistant, though not a manager. Both stay fit, both vocalize on their own. Anthony thinks he has a bit more of a legit sound. “ Will pushes the envelope. He interacts with the audience. If Will puts something out there, I’ll react like—look what we’re putting up with tonight.” (Anthony) Good cop/bad cop? “I’m probably more raw, from the gut. Anthony’s a great scene partner. He makes playing on stage easy. Within the duo, he offers romanticism and calm.” (Will) “I live in a place of playing and sharing it with my brother.” (Anthony)
Their pre-show regimens are also different. Anthony needs complete quiet. He spends a relaxing day drinking hot water and honey. Will’s “engine” starts up 4-5 hours before. He runs, vocalizes, and goes through the show in his mind. Sometimes the brothers don’t see each other until they then meet in the green room. Will goes into a corner for 10 minutes of serenity wile Anthony revs up. “We come from two directions, but meet at the same spot on stage.” (Will) They rarely talk about a set afterwards. “We know when someone does something.” (Anthony) Styles are epitomized by their vocal heroes: Anthony’s are Tony Bennett and Ella Fitzgerald- “simple, direct communication of lyrics.” One might add ease and restraint. Will’s are Sammy Davis Jr. and Judy Garland— “for their vulnerability, their emotional wells.” Here, one might add externalization, brash showmanship. “I’ve never learned not to be over expressive.” (Will)
Two years ago, Will and Anthony established Double Duty, an educational outreach program through which they give back to the community. “We feel we have a duty to give back and make it a point to find an educational outlet near every venue, a school or class we can talk to, perform for, and/or teach-even in New York City. (Anthony) “We show up and whatever happens, trust our instincts. One day we want to start a foundation that does this work.” (Will) Information on Double Duty can be found on their web site.
2012’s Make Someone Happy directed by Jeff Whiting and starting July 10th ,will be the Nunziatas third show and second run at Feinstein’s. For more information, go to the Feinstein’s calendar.
“What we have is unique. I believe all I have to do is not get in the way of my life.” (Anthony)
“I take the business and my work seriously. Everything else is play.” (Will)
The Nunziata brothers are enjoying their journey, learning by doing.
Our interview is over. It’s a tie.
For more information and the duo’s premiere CD, go to the website