Waterford singer performs at Radio City Music Hall
Nina Pezzello distinctly recalls, as an 8-year-old, traveling to New York City with her mother, Deb, and seeing “The Christmas Spectacular” at Radio City Music Hall.
She was dazzled by it all. Being a ballet student, she was particularly taken with the young girl dancing the part of Clara in the “Nutcracker” sequence.
“I just remember when the show started, I got very emotional. I was just like, ‘I need to be on that stage.’ I looked at my mom, and I was like, ‘Mom, I’m going to be on that stage, one way or another. At some point, I’m going to perform here.’”
Pezzello hasn’t ever danced the role of Clara there, but in December, she did perform at Radio City Music Hall. The Legends — Quinnipiac University’s a cappella group that Pezzello is part of — sang two numbers onstage right before “The Christmas Spectacular” on Dec. 30.
Radio City has choirs from around the country open for the Rockettes for that famed holiday show. Pezzello saw an ad about Radio City searching for such groups last year, and, since she was performance coordinator of The Legends at the time (she is now president), she thought she’d give it a shot and apply.
Within an hour, she got a call from Radio City. Their representatives had seen The Legends on social media and said they’d love to have the ensemble sing at Radio City. It turns out the person who contacted Pezzello for Radio City, Dylan McGovern, went to college near Quinnipiac and was familiar with The Legends.
But with a new wave of COVID sweeping through in December of 2021, Radio City ended up cancelling those performances. McGovern reached out to Pezzello during the summer of 2022 and said Radio City would love to have The Legends onstage this year. And so it happened.
There are 17 singers in The Legends, and their families and friends — almost 200 in all — travelled to Radio City. Pezzello says her family alone had a bus of almost 40 people.
“We had a very big fan section, which was really awesome,” she says.
Radio City holds 6,000 theatergoers, and Dec. 30 was sold out.
“When we were standing onstage and looking at 6,000 people, we were just like — I honestly don’t even have the words to describe what it felt like,” Pezzello says.
They sang “Mary Did You Know” and “White Winter Hymnal” and then got to watch the rest of “The Christmas Spectacular” from the audience.
“I still can’t believe that happened … It was such a surreal experience,” she says.
Pezzello said it was particularly wonderful to do this with her fellow a cappella group members, who have become her best friends. She says it’s a “memory we’ll have the rest of our lives.”
Starting on local stage
Pezzello started performing when she was 3.
“My mom always says I sang before I talked and I danced before I walked,” she says.
“As long as I can remember, stage kind of felt like home to me,” she adds. “I was my truest self when I was performing onstage.”
Pezzello tried sports and playing instruments, but she didn’t click with anything until her mother signed her up for dance. She fell in love with that and says she basically grew up at Kiks Dance Center in Uncasville.
“When I was younger, I thought that being a ballerina was my destiny. Then I stopped growing. I’m a solid five feet right now,” she says.
When her teacher at Kiks asked her to sing “Tomorrow” from “Annie” as part of a performance, Pezzello, then 6, realized that she could sing.
While Pezzello kept dancing competitively, she also started doing musical theater.
When she was in third grade, she was selected as a local performer who got to play a Munchkin when the national tour of “The Wizard of Oz” stopped at the Garde Arts Center in New London.
At age 10, she auditioned for “Annie” at Theater By The Sea in Matunuck, R.I. She was cast as one of the orphans named Pepper, and she understudied the role of Annie.
While a student at Waterford High School (she graduated in 2020), Pezzello played Belle in “Beauty and the Beast” and Kate Monster in “Avenue Q.” She was supposed to be the Witch in “Into the Woods,” but then COVID hit.
During COVID, she says, “I saw the harsh realities of being a performer. There were so many performers were out of a job for a long time.”
So she says that while “performing will always be a passion of mine,” she has decided to pursue journalism as her career. Pezzello is majoring in journalism at Quinnipiac, aiming to become an on-air reporter and/or anchor for a Connecticut TV station.
“I have a passion for writing, and (that job) kind of mixes my two passions together, in the sense that I’m giving this information to people, so I’m kind of performing,” she says.
She had an internship at Channel 8 WTNH over the summer and has another one at Channel 3 WFSB right now.
An incredible experience
The Legends next perform at the ICAA Northeast Quarterfinal at Boston University on Feb. 18. Pezzello notes that this is the real competition portrayed in the movie “Pitch Perfect.” The Legends won their quarterfinals last year. (Tickets are available online.)
The group also holds its spring concert on May 4 at Quinnipiac in Hamden.
This is The Legends’ 10-year anniversary, and Pezzello says, “It’s amazing we could do this (Radio City performance) in our 10th-year anniversary.”
She adds, “It was an incredible experience … Not a lot of people get to say they performed at Radio City Music Hall.”