Great Performances Features David Foster and Harry Connick Jr. Specials on PBS

Great Performances Features David Foster and Harry Connick Jr. Specials on PBS

“The Hitman Returns: David Foster & Friends” & “Harry Connick Jr. in Concert on Broadway” air on Great Performances

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Great Performances bring the best in the performing arts from across America and around the world to PBS audiences. That’s a fact. And the performance showcase series has been doing it for 38 seasons. Regardless of who or where you are, the show gives its audience the best seat in the house, and the greatest performers in the world.

Two great concert shows will be airing on PBS in March, “The Hitman Returns: David Foster & Friends,” and “Harry Connick, Jr. in Concert on Broadway.” Both feature incredible showmen and are a must-see for music-lovers.

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Maestro and songwriter to the stars, David Foster collaborates and produces hits for some of the most popular music stars, who will join him for “The Hitman Returns: David Foster & Friends.”

The all-star music celebration is a sequel to the top-rated “Hitman: David Foster & Friends” Great Performances concert show. The new music extravaganza was filmed at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, and it includes more wonderful music from the 15-time Grammy winning Foster’s extensive career catalog.

“We had such a phenomenal time last go round, I knew that I wanted to come back with a stronger, bigger and even more theatrical show that would be totally unforgettable. I think we succeeded in assembling some of the greatest voices out there for one night,” Foster said. “I was thrilled to be hosting and accompanying my friends on this very special night.”

Foster’s friends include Donna Summer, Seal, Natalie Cole, Martina McBride, Ne-Yo, Michael Bolton, Lara Fabian, Kenny Loggins, Ruben Studdard, Chaka Khan, All-4-One, and Earth, Wind & Fire.

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Plus America’s Got Talent’s 10-year-old opera sensation Jackie Evancho joins the stellar lineup. All perform songs either written, produced or connected to Foster over the course of his prolific career.

Show stopping solos are featured from veteran performers and newcomers, including new Glee star Charice, who does a soulful “All By Myself.” The concert also features duets, such as Natalie Cole and Ruben Studdard’s nostalgic “When I Fall in Love,” and Bolton and Seal’s bluesy “When A Man Loves A Woman.” Seal and Donna Summer duet on a powerhouse medley with “Unbreak My Heart,” “Crazy,” and “On the Radio.” Bolton and Lara Fabian duet on the great Foster hit “The Prayer.”

Foster has been nominated for an unprecedented 45 Grammy awards, won two Emmys and has an Oscar nomination to his credit. He is also the executive producer of “Hitman Returns: David Foster & Friends,” along with Great Performances’ David Horn, who directed.

It has been Horn’s tradition during the annual Television Critics Press Tour to end the PBS day of interviews with a concert, showcasing an upcoming music special. Foster happily provided a great evening of music and stories for the gathering of TV writers from across the U.S. and Canada, his native land.

One story was about the prime minister of Canada telling Foster to listen to a young wedding singer named Michael Buble. “He was right. I flew Michael to my house, moved him in, gave him money to live on.” And under Foster’s guidance, Buble became a pop-music sensation.

In addition to being very charitable, Foster has a great sense of humor and kidded about not taking elevators because “I’m afraid I’m going to hear my own music in there.”

Actually, Foster told me he’s an egomaniac when it comes to his music. “I honestly believe that I can get a better vocal out of a singer than any other producer on the planet. I like to create songs where people applaud in the middle of the song.” That happened a lot during his private concert at Pasadena’s Langham Hotel.

He was funny parading through his greatest hits, along with a mention of which ex-wife got custody of which hit song. Then a couple of friends join him. Charice wowed everybody with “All By Myself,” and Donna Summer turned the place into a rocking disco belting out “Last Dance.”

The surprising highlight of the evening for me was when Foster was boasting that he could bring out the best in any performer. And he plucked me out of the audience to share his spotlight and asked me to do a song with him. So with musician-producer David Foster tinkling on the Yamaha ivories, I launched into “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.” I have performed before, but never with such a great music man.

My performance received a standing ovation from my peers, a remarkable gift from the hard-to-please critics. Praise from Foster calling me his “little singing partner” also turned the experience into a “bucket list” musical moment with the celebrated hitman.

On a different day during the TV press tour, one of the most popular crooners of love songs for this generation, Harry Connick, Jr. performed and talked about his Great Performances special “Harry Connick, Jr. in Concert on Broadway.”

In addition to being a singer, Connick is an accomplished jazz pianist and composer. All of those talents are in the spotlight on the show. And it seems his real passion comes out when he performs his roster of jazz favorites in his trademark New Orleans style. Great Mardi Gras tunes like “Bourbon Street Parade” and “St. James Infirmary Blues.”

It was a treat to hear that great music when Connick gave a mini concert at the press tour hosted by PBS. Before Connick sat down at the Steinway to perform with a great band of musicians, he talked to the TV writers about his music and background.

He started off by saying that he enjoyed doing two previous Great Performances specials (one won an Emmy), and he was happy to team with producer David Horn for another.

For the TV writers in the ballroom of the Langham Hotel, Connick was playing the kind of Mardi Gras party music he grew up with, which he calls New Orleans traditional jazz. And he has fond memories of being around the great Big Easy musicians learning his craft since he was a toddler. “I think back and realized how unbelievably fortunate I was to be around some of these guys who played with Louis Armstrong in the ’30s, when the music was really being invented. And I got a chance to play with some of those guys. It was incredible.”

He recalled that his parents would take him and his sister down to the French Quarter when they were little. “I remember when I was about five years old, and I knew then I wanted to play the piano, because I would play around the house. I would practice ‘When the Saints Go Marching In,’ and when I was about six, I started to sit in on the sessions. That’s sort of a New Orleans tradition, to have young musicians sit in. I did that till I was about 14, when I actually started working, getting hired as the piano player at a lot of those traditional gigs. We played New Orleans traditional jazz. It’s the type of music that I love to do.”

On the personal side, Connick, 43, has been married for 17 years to the former Victoria’s Secret supermodel Jill Goodacre, and they have three beautiful daughters.

Connick is also an incredible showman who gives you his best on Great Performances.


Margie Barron has written for a wide variety of outlets including Gannett newspapers, Nickelodeon, Tiger Beat and 16 Magazine, Fresh!, Senior Life, Production Update, airline magazines, etc. Margie is also proud to be half of the husband and wife writing team Frank & Margie Barron, who have written together for various entertainment and travel publications for more than 30 years.

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