Jackie Evancho Goes to the Movies for PBS Concert

Her newest 'Great Performances' concert brings classical sound to familiar movie themes.

Young Jackie Evancho went to the fabled Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles last night and sang music from the movies as she recorded her second live concert.

The sense of spectacle was just as evident at the Orpheum as it was for her first PBS special a little over a year ago at The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Fla.

Evident too was the classical crossover genre that marks her vocal style. The difference was that the music at the Orpheum sounded more modern in its themes. 

The audience was markedly younger than the crowds who have been filling concert halls across the country the past year for her symphonic tour, “.”  Notably younger too were the musicians making up the 26-piece orchestra, led by award-winning composer and arranger William Ross. 

Jackie's second PBS special is scheduled to be released in August and will be broadcast by affiliate stations around the country for their fund drives. Last year’s Dream With Me In Concert became one of the most viewed specials in the 38-year-history of the Great Performances series. It raised record amounts of money for PBS stations.

Songs from last night’s “Music of the Movies” concert will also form the core of Jackie’s next full-length album, which is expected out this fall. The official album title has not yet been announced. 

The mood and pacing last night were different from a normal concert. Stage manager David Wader, who has managed Academy Awards shows and other major productions, called for Jackie and the orchestra to stop, start and sometimes repeat certain songs according to directions he received from unseen producers and editors who reviewed taped footage as the evening progressed.

The Richland Township star remained ebullient throughout the two hours and 45 minutes of the recording session. While waiting for signals from Wader, she kept the audience charmed with what have become her trademark gestures of hand waves, smiles and sometimes giggles.

In a little less than two years, Jackie has gone from a 10-year-old kid from Pittsburgh who was the runner-up on America’s Got Talent to an ascendant international superstar. She has now released four albums that have sold more than 2 million copies, performed twice for President Obama, appeared twice in concert in Japan, sung twice in Canada, once in England and next week will take her powerful, lyrical soprano voice to Russia where she will help open the in Palace Square.

She sang 12 movie-themed songs at the Orpheum, including “Come What May” from the film, Moulin Rouge with her guest stars, the Canadian Tenors.

She brought out another guest to sing “I See the Light” from the Disney film, Tangled, as a duet. She had a lot of time to practice with this partner because it was her 14-year-old brother, Jacob. Last January, they sang a capella together at a concert in Indio, Calif. Brother Jake turns out to have a resonant voice and excellent pitch. Singing with his sister and a top-flight orchestra, he turned in a crowd-pleasing performance.

The Orpheum Theatre opened in 1926; stars appearing there have included Charlie Chaplin, Jack Benny, Ella Fitzgerald and Stevie Wonder. It is where Judy Garland began her career in 1933.

An enormous hall with ornate carvings in a golden hue, the theater last night saw its stage dressed with simple columns and curtains rising several stories against a backdrop of an inky black sky and bright stars.

The set was simple yet elegant, and lighting created many different moods. A low circular dais, maybe two feet high and about 10 feet across, was the stage within the stage for Jackie’s songs.  She sang them all with a hand-held mic.

She wore three different dresses throughout the night in pastel hues of gold, blue and rose, with matching shoes and modest-sized heels. Singing “The Music of the Night” from Phantom of the Opera, she evoked the phantom by appearing in a black tux jacket with pink piping and close-fitted black trousers and black wedge shoes.

“Music of the Movies” seems not so much a departure from the classical crossover style so prevalent in Dream With Me as an effort to evolve from that album’s  emphasis on arias in other languages to more familiar melodies. All but one are in English and may appeal to younger audiences.

In its simplest definition, classical crossover finds ways to make classical music more popular and popular music more classical. The genre suits the sonorous timbre, soaring range and astounding power of Jackie’s voice. And it is a genre suited to evoking moods in films.

Ever since European classical musicians began putting music to films starting in the 1930s, the movie theater has been the one place where Americans have heard classical crossover music, even if they didn’t know what to call it. 

“Jackie is singer who is making classical music popular. You don’t see other American artists doing that, and she is only 12,” said one concert-goer last night.

Producer , with 16 Grammies to his credit, produced Dream With Me with his well-known wall-of-sound effect—a symphony orchestra of 40 musicians or so who were furnished with lush arrangements.

He anchored the Dream With Me concert with elaborate sets, a virtuoso pianist for one number, original lyrics for another piece by Lara Fabian, and the pairing of Jackie with Barbra Streisand and Scottish classical crossover artist Susan Boyle.

These trappings are gone in Jackie’s latest musical venture.

The new arrangements remain posh, and an outstanding violinist and trumpeter take center stage with Jackie on two different numbers.

But executive producer and director David Horn, co-producer Umberto Gatica and conductor/arranger Ross seem to be saying that the little girl from Richland Township has graduated to a place where her voice and interpretive skills can capture an audience on their own now.

They may also be wondering whether the evolution toward more familiar music will find its way onto the radio. For much of the country, Jackie remains the most famous singer they have never heard because American radio slices and dices music by genre, then assigns advertising accordingly.

remains largely left out of the picture. 

Only time will tell what this next move means in a young career whose trajectory can be reasonably described as meteoric. Late last night in Los Angeles, however, as the hour approached 11 pm on a mid-week night, she dedicated the last song to her mother for allowing her daughter to “follow my dream”.

As she sang “Reflection” from Disney’s Mulan, the Orpheum’s audience sat without stirring, smiles plastered on faces, and jaws agape.

Jackie Evancho once again was making magic happen.


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KinderLiederOH June 14, 2012 at 03:34 PM
Jackie Evancho "dedicated the last song to her mother for allowing her daughter to “follow my dream”. Thank you, Evancho Family, for sharing Jackie with us.
WMJ June 14, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Wow! What a fantastically written review. It completely captured the essence of the event. I am a fan of Jackie's but am also an admirer of good writing skills . What more can anyone say about Jackie's performances. They are always tremendous and this writer seemed to completely convey the sight, sounds and mood of this special night.
Terry Baker June 14, 2012 at 03:57 PM
Cindy, wonderful article and review of Jackie, as always. You do an amazing job in support of Jackie and her career, and as her long-time fan, I personally appreciate all that you do on behalf of Jackie and her family. Cheers. Terry Baker Minneapolis, MN
David Young June 14, 2012 at 03:59 PM
Great review! Thank you very much !
Cindy Cusic Micco June 14, 2012 at 04:35 PM
Thanks to all and kudos to writer Bruce Benson for a great article and photos!
Ken Varn June 14, 2012 at 04:59 PM
Wonderful review! Hats off to Bruce Benson for doing such a great job! It was very well done and helped me to get a feeling for the atmosphere. I can't wait for the PBS broadcast and the DVD to come out. The anticipation is overwhelming!
Felix Stover June 14, 2012 at 05:01 PM
Fantastic article. I wasn't present for Jackies concert but this article made me feel as if I was. Thank you, wonderful job. And thank you Jackie and the entire Evancho family for sharing your amazing daughter.
Tom Paulson June 14, 2012 at 06:13 PM
Can't wait to see this performance.
bill philpott June 14, 2012 at 10:58 PM
Very nice writeup about Jackie and her amazing accomplishmeents. Likee the part, Jackie remains the most famous singer they have never heard. Everyone will know her before too much longer. She is too good to miss. Thanks again Bruce for the article and Thank you too Cindy.
Sempi Ternam June 14, 2012 at 11:36 PM
Thank you, Bruce, for this excellent review! I am really looking forward to getting the DVD. Alex Moss, Columbia, SC
Don Ikeda June 15, 2012 at 12:27 AM
Excellent review by Bruce Benson. Jackie was wonderful as always. This was my first time hearing her in person. My kids bought me tickets for my birthday. The couple next to me was from the state of Washington. They drove down here just to hear her sing. Another couple sitting nearby said that this was not their first concert to hear Jackie Evancho sing. There were moments when there was a pause in the flow of the program and Jackie turned to the audience to acknowledge them with her two handed wave. What was amazing was that many people in the audience were waving back to her (some with a two handed wave). I remember at one point, when she was so happy that she twirled around and everyone joined her in celebrating the moment.
Joe Merkt June 15, 2012 at 01:04 AM
Bruce, It was great to see you and talk with you last night. Congratulations on a wonderful article. You have said it all eloquently. Jackie sang it all eloquently and powerfully and had wonderful accompaniment in the band, the orchestra, Caroline Campbell (the solo violinist) to mention just some This taping of her PBS special was a magical journey for me and an evening that I am so grateful to have participated in. By the way, thanks for putting a name to the stage director. David Wader was fantastic with Jackie, Jake, all of the performers, and the audience! Joe Merkt Thompsons Station, TN
Judy Miller June 15, 2012 at 03:31 AM
I can't figure out how to see the video? I wonder if someone could tell me. Thanks
Tom Paulson June 15, 2012 at 01:36 PM
From what they've been saying, there will be a PBS special sometime in August showing this performance.
James Dale Barrington June 15, 2012 at 04:39 PM
Kudos to Bruce Benson!! Good job. It sounds like our Jackie is having an appeal toward the younger audience, as well. Jacob has entered into the sunshine, too. It's an amazing transcendence from anonymity to being virtually known all over the world in a space of a year or two. I'm ensnared in the web she has spun and feel helpless to her charm. Enchanting...
Robert Jacklin June 15, 2012 at 06:37 PM
Wonder review that makes waiting to see the PBS special and get the DVD only harder? What a treat to follow Jackie's career grow, and with the internet we can see her earlier performances before she became famous and can appreciate the effort of both her and her mother to pusue her dream. One piece of music she has sung that I had hoped would be in the progrma is Enya's "Only Time". She sang it recently at a wedding in Florida and even with the cell phone recording of it is is sublime. http://youtu.be/wDe4dNRLFQs
Trud Nell June 16, 2012 at 06:42 AM
Go Jackie Girl! What an Inspiration you are!
ronald larson June 17, 2012 at 10:48 PM
This wonderful Lady and her family are in My heart all day long. God bless them.
Bill Majeske July 05, 2012 at 03:58 PM
Call or email your local PBS station for times and dates of airings. No one will want to miss this performance.
Bill Majeske July 05, 2012 at 04:00 PM
Thanks Bruce for this wonderfully written article about Jackie.
KM August 14, 2012 at 12:56 AM
Hearing the concert tonight (in August), I am disappointed that she seems so dependent upon, connected with the microphone. There seems to be a gap in development. I had held her up as a model for young singers. This program did not support that.


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