Local favorite piano man Tony DeSare set for Thursday cabaret

Pianist Tony DeSare has an answer as ready as his showtime storytelling when asked if he still sometimes goes all Jerry-Lee-Lewis-crazy in concert and kinetically pounds the instrument with his frenzied feet as he did in Columbus once.

Um, that would be no — for a very simple reason.

“Sometimes these days, I’m playing a $200,000 Steinway, and some of these people wouldn’t appreciate my putting my feet all over it,” he said with a chuckle, speaking by phone from a restaurant recently in Naples, Florida.

The resort area is where organizers expected him to sell out a week’s worth of shows with the Naples Philharmonic in a 1,400-seat venue. Locally, he returns at 7:30 p.m. Thursday for the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic’s Cabaret at The Commons series downtown. He is among the series’ most frequent and most popular performers. Same for the Philharmonic, too, where he forged a friendship with former artistic director David Bowden back in 2014.

He figures his latest 75-minute performance will include plenty of covers, but also at least one new, softer original “I’m Not Going to Fall in Love With You.”

Residents here are long past that, since the 48-year-old smooth jazz and pop singer has sold out nearly every show here, with audiences coming even from surrounding metro areas such as Cincinnati, Ohio and Louisville, Kentucky.

“It still amazes me that people will care enough to drive a couple hours to see me,” he said.

At press time, organizers were estimating this audience to be perhaps 300-plus in a 400-seat Commons on Washington Street. His visibility has grown considerably in the past decade to the point that he now lands often enough on morning network news shows and more.

“It’s nice to feel like I’m still growing,” he said. “And it’s nice to see that the things I dreamed of doing at 12 years old have become things I actually have been able to do.

“That includes simply playing ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ on stage with a full orchestra or scoring a film. In the early days, just the idea of having a real piano and not having to set up my own equipment (was big).”

He’s currently scoring his sixth film, a Hallmark Channel project set in London. With cabaret shows, he likes to allow an organic creativity to determine the set list in the moment, though most of his completed concerts span music from the 1930s to today with every decade in between.

“Maybe I’ll sometimes figure out ahead of time what I’ll open with and that’s all,” he said. “I see it as a conversation with the audience or like a chef preparing a nice meal.

“It’s kind of like, ‘Ooooh, let’s add a little cinnamon over here.”

DeSare is a spice that plenty of his admirers adore, as evidenced by their gushing praise on social media. His biggest current challenge is finding time to slow down and tackle new writing and projects amid a busier travel schedule away from his Atlanta home.

“That’s not a complaint, though,” he said, adding that he’s grateful to be in demand. “I should find a better way to counterbalance everything.”

The busyness hardly has affected his humor. With a little prodding, he mentioned that 10-year-old son Christopher may give up piano lessons sometime, though he’s a natural at it.

“He’s super funny — and I mean even funny by adult standards,” DeSare said. “I wouldn’t be too surprised if maybe he does a little stand-up comedy later.

“Just think — maybe he could open for me.”

Yeah. At Comedy and Cabaret at The Commons.

About the show

Who: Pianist and singer Tony DeSare in the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic’s Cabaret at The Commons series.

When: 7:30 Thursday. Cash bar available.

Where: The Commons, 300 Washington St. in downtown Columbus.

Tickets: thecip.org.