Although Friday the 13th might be an unlucky date for some, it’s certainly not for music lovers at the Newton Theatre in Newton, NJ this Friday, December 13, 2019. These lucky listeners are happily waiting inside the cozy Newton Theatre auditorium for a uplifting concert of holiday music from teenage vocal phenom Jackie Evancho.
Jackie Evancho is a classical crossover singer who gained wide recognition at an early age. The second of four children, Jackie, 19, was born in Pittsburgh to Lisa and Michael Evancho. After seeing the film version of Phantom of the Opera as a young child, Jackie began to sing the musical’s songs at home. Her parents didn’t realize her voice was unusual, however, until she competed in her first talent competition just before her eighth birthday and took second place.
Jackie began taking voice lessons and singing at events, churches, and nursing homes in Pennsylvania, and was even cast in the title role of her school’s musical version of Little Red Riding Hood. At the age of ten, she gained national attention with her second place finish in Season Five of America’s Got Talent. Even though she had auditioned twice for the show without success, ultimately she was accepted as a contestant.
When she appeared on the broadcast, the judges were thrilled with her performance of Puccini’s aria, “O mio babbino caro.” Afterwards, questions arose as to whether her performance had been lip-synched. On the next evening’s show, Jackie sang an impromptu vocal exercise to demonstrate that the previous performance was her actual live voice. After that, judge Howie Mandel addressed the issue suggesting that what people were really saying about Evancho’s vocal prowess was that it was “too good to be true.”
Following America’s Got Talent, Evancho released a series of best-selling albums including three which were Billboard 200 Top Ten debuts. Her latest recording — 2019’s The Debut — is her eighth consecutive recording to reach #1 on the US Classical Albums Chart.
At the Newton Theatre, the stage is set with a grand piano, a drum set, and a pair of chairs and music stands for two instrumentalists. Behind the musical equipment is a large backdrop depicting the skyline of a wintertime city with large Christmas trees.
The auditorium lights dim and pianist Jorn Swart, drummer Devin Collins, violinist Aimee Brian, and cellist Loni Bach take their places on the stage.
Jackie Evancho enters to large applause. Sporting a dress which is strapless on one side but with a jacket and sleeve on the other, Evancho launches into a pair of holiday favorites, “Silver Bells” and “Christmas Waltz.”
Her light soprano voice filling the theater with holiday joy as she performs these classics accompanied by grand piano, violin, and cello, Evancho sings with feeling, looking lovely as colored lights rain down on the stage.
After welcoming the crowd, Evancho tells the audience that the current season is her “favorite time of year” before launching into “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” Showing her range and the depth of her vocal tone, she croons, “Christmas Eve’ll find me/Where the love light gleams/I’ll be home for Christmas/If only in my dreams,” while piano and strings swell and percussionist Devin Collins rolls cymbals with mallets to a shimmering conclusion.
Evancho’s voice floats out over the audience on “White Christmas,” the lush strings resounding as audience members shout “Bravo!”
Explaining, “This next number is a medley from a show that inspired me to start singing — Phantom of the Opera,” Evancho launches into a trio of three songs — “Music of the Night,” “The Point of No Return,” and “All I Ask of You” — with precision and grace, her runs and tone spot on, inspiring cheers and applause for her passionate performance.
Acknowledging, “The Debut is my latest album, and it’s one where I got to use my creative side,” Evancho reveals, “I fell in love with this song from Wicked, and I knew I could do something fun with it.”
Here, she performs an arrangement of “I’m Not That Girl” from Wicked which also morphs into a selection from Waitress, “She Used to Be Mine,” weaving the two numbers together as if they’re a single piece. As Evancho sings, her voice pleads telling a story of unrequited love from Wicked, but also communicates a message of change as she segues into the piece from Waitress, providing a clever and creative juxtaposition of ideas for all of the listeners in the house.
The crowd cheers and Evancho says, “This song is by my all-time favorite singer,” before performing her rendition of The Carpenters’ “Merry Christmas Darling.” Her rich tone and style reminiscent of The Carpenters’ legendary lead vocalist, Karen Carpenter, Evancho sings with maturity, her lower register sounding warm and resonant in this intimate listening space.
Evancho takes leave of the stage, giving her backup musicians a chance to shine in the spotlight with an instrumental medley of Christmas songs. Opening with Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmas Time is Here,” Jorn Swart tinkles the piano ivories as violinist Aimee Brian handles the melody and cellist Loni Bach plays a walking bass line on her cello as if it’s a stand up bass. Moving onto a jazzy arrangement of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” the trio’s sound is light and breezy and Swart plays a bebop-inspired piano solo before concluding the medley with a brisk Count Basie three-chord ending.
Evancho returns to perform her interpretation of Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song.”
Her sweet vocal tone fills audience members’ hearts before she dedicates her next number to the memory of her grandmother. Evancho’s dramatic interpretation of “How Great Thou Art” has audience members cheering for her stirring vocal on her beautiful rendition of the classic hymn.
Following a short intermission, Evancho and the musicians return to open Act II with a jazzy version of “Misty” which leads into a legato performance of “Silent Night” which is accompanied by Jorn Swart on the piano.
On both numbers, Evancho impresses with her precise diction — each and every consonant performed crisply and clearly.
Announcing, “Now I’m a New Yorker, but I’ll have always have Pittsburgh in my heart,” Evancho further reveals, “And I have Jersey in my blood — my Dad grew up here.”
Moving on to a number from her new album, The Debut, Evancho performs “Burn” from the musical, Hamilton.
Singing with passion and style, she switches from her chest voice to her head voice with ease on this dynamic arrangement.
The crowd heartily applauds and Evancho recalls, “My favorite Kindergarten memory was “pajama day,” when we dressed up in our pajamas and watched the movie, Polar Express.”
Here, she performs her version of Josh Groban’s “Believe,” singing, “Believe in what you feel inside/And give your dreams the wings to fly/You have everything you need” on this lovely arrangement. She follows up with “Once Upon a December” from Anastasia, her sweet vocal waltzing along as it fills the theatre with intrigue and drama.
Evancho introduces her instrumentalists who perform a medley of songs from The Wizard of Oz including jazzy versions of “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” and “If I Only Had a Brain.” Upon her return, she sings a poignant rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” accompanied by Swart on piano, her full voice interpreting this timeless classic with grace and style, eliciting avid cheers from the crowd for her heartfelt performance.
Evancho’s tone is clear and pure as she sings a pair of Christmas songs — “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
She follows up by thanking her band members, dedicating her last song of the evening to her fans saying, “This final song is for all of you for helping me to live my impossible dream.”
Piano arpeggios by Swart accompany Evancho’s emotional interpretation of “The Impossible Dream.”
The music swells as she looks heavenward while the music builds and the crowd rises to its feet.
After curtsying for the adoring crowd, Evancho performs an encore rendition of the song she first turned heads with on TV’s America’s Got Talent — Puccini’s “O mio babbino caro” — her coloratura soprano sound spotlighted on this classic opera aria.
The audience cheers and she segues into Puccini’s “Nessum dorma,” giving a performance which elicits multiple “Bravas!” from the standing crowd.
Lastly, Evancho gives audience members chills with a stunning interpretation of “O Holy Night” which has audience members cheering — many with tears streaming from their eyes — before she bids them a fond “Goodnight.”
As music lovers make their way out of the Newton Theatre auditorium, we chat with several in the crowd who share their thoughts on tonight’s performance by Jackie Evancho.
Comments Carole from Franklin, “Wow! This show was even better than I expected,” adding, “Jackie Evancho’s childhood potential has been met, and she performed quite an eclectic mix.” Carole’s husband, Bill, concurs noting, “Her voice is even richer than I had imagined.”
Whereas Nancy from Millville calls Jackie Evancho’s performance tonight “Wonderful” explaining, “The music from Phantom of the Opera was just beautiful,” Carol from Rockaway agrees stating, “She was excellent. I was glad she sang the arias. She ought to be in Phantom on Broadway — she has a great range.”
Christine from Avalon, NY remarks, “Jackie Evancho is great — fantastic — her voice is so pure” and Joanne from Newton exclaims, “I think she’s awesome! She has a beautiful voice. I’m so glad she came to Newton,” before adding, “I’m mesmerized by her — she gave me chills on ‘How Great Thou Art.’”
Richard from Ogdensburg contends, “We’ve followed Jackie Evancho her entire career. She was fantastic on America’s Got Talent, and she does a great Christine from Phantom,” before noting, “Plus we loved seeing her in this theater where every seat in the house is good.”
Fran from Ogdensburg agrees adding, “She was just fantastic — and it was great seeing her in such an intimate space.”
Betsy from Stockholm concurs contending, “Jackie Evancho is great — so very talented,” before Debbie from Stoney Brook sums things up in five simple words — “She sings like an angel!”
To learn more about Jackie Evancho, please go to jackieevancho.com. For information about future performances at The Newton Theatre — including Big Bad Voodoo Daddy on January 10, 10,000 Maniacs on February 29, and Jim Messina on March 13 — please click on thenewtontheatre.com.
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