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David Foster and Katharine McPhee LIVE! at MPAC

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Music lovers inside Morristown, NJ’s MPAC auditorium this Friday, December 2, 2022 evening excitedly await an intimate evening of music with songwriter/producer David Foster and his wife, singer/actress Katharine McPhee.

The lights dim, and drummer John “JR” Robinson, bassist Gary Lunn, and keyboardist Boh Cooper take the stage. On the screen above them, a video plays showing David Foster and Katharine McPhee in 2006 when she was a contestant on TV’s American Idol and he was a guest mentor. The video goes on to feature clips of Foster’s career in the recording studio and McPhee’s career on television and on Broadway.

Concertgoers stand and cheer as David Foster takes the stage.

After greeting the crowd, Foster motions for the audience to be seated and takes his place at the grand piano to play an upbeat rendition of “Carol of the Bells.” As holiday images fill the screen overhead, the music dramatically builds and fills the theater, eliciting applause from the crowd for this dynamic opening number.

Through the magic of technology, saxophonist Kenny G appears on screen and Foster interacts with the video before the pair launches into a rendition of Foster’s composition, “Love Theme from St. Elmo’s Fire (For Just a Moment).” Deftly accompanied by his talented live band, Foster impresses with his top-notch piano performance skills on this lovely ballad.

“Good evening, Morristown!” says Foster. “I was here a few years ago. It’s such a beautiful town!” Foster tells the audience about writing the music for the film, St. Elmo’s Fire, revealing, I was inspired to write the theme by a Canadian, Rick Hansen, who was going around the world in his wheelchair to raise awareness for spinal cord injuries.”

Here, Foster introduces Fernando Varela, a singer known for his performances on TV’s America’s Got Talent. As the lyrics to “St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion)” appear on screen, Varela and the audience sing together on the powerful anthem’s familiar “I can see a new horizon underneath the blazin’ sky/I’ll be where the eagle’s flying higher and higher” refrain.

Varela’s full voice adds a richness to the arrangement, bringing cheers from the crowd at the conclusion.

Singer Josh Groban appears on screen and ‘listens’ to Varela singing a live version of “You Raise Me Up,” even joining in on a verse. Together, the vocalists elicit hoots and hollers from music lovers in the crowd.

Foster thanks the audience before announcing, “Please welcome Katharine McPhee!” McPhee enters, looking and sounding sexy in her red dress and heels as she sings, “Cry Me a River.”

Vocalizing with style and power, she brings concertgoers to their feet with her potent interpretation of this jazzy standard.

Foster and McPhee make the audience feel at ease as they casually chat about their relationship which began platonically on American Idol and evolved into a romance with a marriage in 2019 and a baby boy in 2021. They also reminisce about their time on TV’s The Masked Singer where they were eliminated when they performed “Singin’ in the Rain.” Here, McPhee gives a carefree performance of “Singin’ in the Rain” where she dances in heels as a movie clip of Gene Kelly rolls on the screen above her.

The couple tells the audience about their new Christmas album, Christmas Songs, before the pair performs a happy-go-lucky arrangement of “Jingle Bell Rock” which has Foster tinkling the ivories and McPhee dancing as she sings with style.

The audience cheers as McPhee leaves the stage, and Foster introduces Pia Toscano, a 2011 American Idol finalist, who sings Céline Dion’s “The Power of Love.” Toscano’s voice is full and focused as she cries, “Cause I’m your lady/And you are my man” on this power ballad before holding out a long note at the end to avid applause.

Foster introduces the members of his band before challenging the audience to listen to and name five hit songs which drummer “JR” Robinson played on. With Robinson’s in-person drumming sounding exactly like the original recordings, the audience correctly identifies the five songs as “Rock with You” and “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough” by Michael Jackson, “Higher Love” by Steve Winwood, “Ain’t Nobody” by Rufus, and “All Night Long” by Lionel Richie.

McPhee takes a seat atop the grand piano as Foster invites singers from the audience to come up to the edge of the stage to sing, informing them, “You get 30 seconds” and “You must know all the words.” Three brave vocalists take the challenge including Bill from NJ who sings a Christmas parody to Elton John’s “Daniel”; William, a tenor who brings cheers from the crowd when he croons the opening bars of the Italian aria, “Granada”; and Alexa, 15, who performs “Used to Be” from Waitress with McPhee joining her in singing harmony at the end.

The couple introduces a surprise guest who is in the audience tonight, Jessica Vosk, who performed in Wicked on Broadway. Vosk earns high marks from the crowd as she gives a dynamic performance of “Don’t Rain on My Parade” from Funny Girl with power and style.

Foster talks about writing songs with Peter Cetera and impresses with his piano playing as he performs an instrumental medley of Chicago hits including “Hard to Say I’m Sorry,” “You’re the Inspiration,” and “The Glory of Love.”

Céline Dion appears on screen and talks about recording “All By Myself” with David before Pia Toscano returns to sing the song live. The arrangement builds with intensity to the arrangement’s climatic high note which Toscano executes with power and precision. Toscano then follows up with two Whitney Houston songs from The Bodyguard — “I Have Nothing” and “I Will Always Love You” — both which were originally produced by David Foster.

McPhee returns to perform the Foster composition, “Grown Up Christmas List.”

Singing, “No more lives torn apart/That wars would never start/And time would heal all hearts” with passion and feeling, the crowd hoots and hollers before McPhee gets everyone clapping along as she launches into a spirited rendition of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”

Singer Andrea Bocelli appears on screen and he and Katharine McPhee perform a poignant arrangement of Foster’s “The Prayer.” McPhee’s voice sounds smooth and clear as it interweaves with Bocelli’s rich tenor. Mid-song, Fernando Varela joins the pair for a dynamic finish on this beautiful composition where their voices meld and soar together before ending with reverence and grace, eliciting cheers from the moved crowd.

Foster acknowledges, “That song is a bit of a religious experience,” before Verela sings Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma” with passion, power, and poise, bringing concertgoers to their feet on the song’s dramatic ending.

Ending with “Got to Be Real,” an upbeat David Foster song recorded by Cheryl Lynn, the crowd stands and sings along with Toscano, Varela, Foster, McPhee, and the band.

“Thank you all very much!” says Foster before leaving the stage and returning to explain that after spending most of his career in the recording studio, he now enjoys performing for live audiences. Revealing, “I like this song a lot,” Foster plays the grand piano on “Love,” offering up the pensive instrumental piano piece as a final gift to the audience before concluding by saying, “Good night, everyone.”

As audience members make their way out of the MPAC auditorium, we chat with several concertgoers who share their opinions of tonight’s performance by David Foster and Katharine McPhee. Remarks Ori from Randolph, “This was the best ‘Broadway show’ I’ve ever seen in Morristown. It appealed to everyone,” explaining, “The over-40 crowd was here for David Foster and the under-40 crowd was here for Katharine McPhee!”

Whereas Jodi from Randolph contends, “This show really put in perspective just how incredible a producer and writer David Foster really is,” Susan from Morristown declares, “I loved Katharine McPhee and wanted to hear more of her. She has such a beautiful voice and her personality is so charming, too!”

Rose from West Caldwell exclaims, “I loved this show! David Foster’s music is timeless and Katharine McPhee was better tonight than she was on American Idol. Also, Pia Toscano and Fernando Varela were fantastic,” before concluding, “David Foster seems to have a way of throwing a little glitter onto other people.” Adrienne from West Caldwell concurs, adding, “People don’t realize how talented David Foster is” prior to adding, “and Fernando Varela’s voice was just amazing — his version of ‘Nessum Dorma’ was the best!”

William from Wantage, the tenor who performed “Granada” earlier in the evening, asserts, “The concert was wonderful!” Acknowledging, “Although I enjoyed singing for David Foster, I was also singing for the rest of the audience,” William further notes, “I really like how David Foster develops talent — he cuts across all different genres of music and has wide appeal to all different kinds of people.”

Kiki from Mahwah calls tonight’s David Foster and Katharine McPhee concert, “Spectacular!” and Monica from Mahwah suggests, “To see David Foster in person you get the sense of his true talent. He and Katharine McPhee are truly gifted.” Lastly, Kathy from Ridgewood contends, “This concert was a great way to kick off the Christmas season; it was just wonderful!” before concluding, “It was a privilege experiencing it — I felt lucky to be here!”

To learn more about David Foster, please go to . For more info on Katharine McPhee, click on . For further information on upcoming shows at MPAC in Morristown, NJ — including The Doo Wop Project on January 14; Shawn Colvin, Marc Cohn, and Sarah Jarosz on February 24; and Chaka Kahn on March 23 — please click on



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Spotlight Central

For the best in Jersey entertainment reviews, news, and interviews, keep it focused on Spotlight Central