Foster took to the stage, without McPhee initially, alongside his simple, yet highly skilled, trio of backing musicians. He was immediately charming and connected with the audience while poking fun at some of his observations on central Florida traffic and GPS mishaps where he almost drove to the wrong venue somewhere else in Florida. His first song to warm up the audience was the Love Theme from St. Elmo's Fire. He then welcomed Fernando Varela, who while being a 'local' from Orlando, is in numerous YouTube videos alongside Foster after Foster discovered him from his 'Born to Sing' competition, and is an internationally renowned tenor with a wonderfully dense and full-sounding tone. Varela accompanied Foster to 'Man in Motion', sharing that it was actually the story of Canadian Rick Hansen, whose story of being an athlete in a wheelchair was the inspiration behind the lyrics of this song.
Katharine walked onto the stage to join her husband shortly thereafter to a James Bond-esque, sultry cover of the Arthur Hamilton jazzy 'Cry Me A River.' This was one of the songs that the husband-wife duo performed on the TV show 'The Masked Singer'. Katharine shared that when they were disguised as 'Banana Split' (David was the banana and Katharine was the split), Katharine made the bold decision that she would perform 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow'. She then playfully reminded the audience that this was the exact song decision that got them exited from the show. It was this sort of revealing playfulness that echoed throughout the night, primarily demonstrated in the cute banter between David and Katharine in between songs. This comedic light-heartedness was fun to watch, and exemplified the chemistry between the couple, despite their 35-year age gap.
As a pleasant surprise, Pia Toscano (Season 10 finalist from American Idol) was brought up on stage and delivered an exceptionally powerful version of Celine Dion's 'The Power of Love'. Toscano left the audience in awe, as she delivered flawlessly, and performed arguably better live than Dion's studio version.
Foster then took the time to introduce his highly-accomplished trio of backing musicians. Gary Lunn (bassist), John 'JR' Robinson (drummer), and Boh Cooper (keyboards) are no strangers to Foster's tour, and certainly familiar with the music industry in their own respective rights. For starters, Cooper served as Peter Cetera's Musical Director previously -- Foster proudly now claimed Cooper as his Musical Director these days. The attention then went to JR Robinson, who was lauded as the 'one of the most recorded drummers in history' and they showcased 5 of the most recognizable songs with which he was associated by playing the intros onstage to: Michael Jackson's 'Rock With You' and 'Can't' Stop 'til You Get Enough', Steve Winwood's 'Higher Love', Chaka Khan's 'Ain't Nobody', and Lionel Ritchie's 'All Night Long'.
Then David announced that we had reached that part of the show where he goes to the audience... "for 30 seconds, (he) would be the most expensive karaoke you've ever done in your life." He inserted a Covid joke as a mic was being passed across the audience. The first guest, Kathy, missed her 30 seconds of fame when she was ill-prepared to take the microphone. But 'DJ' commanded his version of 'I Write the Songs', after which David Foster directed the band to repeat the chorus. DJ walked back to a sea of fans chanting his name as he walked back to his seat, and everyone was happy for him and his wonderful performance!
David told a story of when he was with Kenny Rogers and that Rogers had liked what David had written for Peter Cetera. David then wrote a song for Kenny and performed it for Kenny, to which Kenny stated, 'Boys, I don't think that's a hit...' David uncovers that the song was 'You're the Inspiration' later recorded and made widely popular by the band, Chicago.
The Hit Man goes on to say that he was nominated for 3 Oscars, which draws immediate applause from the audience. But with his subtly dry, yet hilariously funny humor, he quickly snips, 'Don't clap... I didn't win.'
By this point, Foster and the crowd were loosened up and much of the audience was greatly enjoying themselves. foster uses this time to now perform the 3 songs for which he was Oscar-nominated. The first was a song from the Karate Kid II. He playfully jabs at himself stating that the movie which had beaten him (Top Gun) starred Tom Cruise... 'ours had the guy from Happy Days' (and an image of Pat Morita projects onto the stage screen). The audience is laughing pretty good at this point. He then proceeds to analyze his song's competition and is sarcastically not impressed with the lyrics from 'Take My Breath Away.' Then, he offers up the trailer for Top Gun, but instead of 'Take My Breath Away' playing in the background, he overlays his 'Glory of Love' and his version actually goes over surprisingly well... an argument can easily be made that his 'Glory of Love' could have sensibly been used instead of the song by Berlin.
Pia and Katharine take to the stage together. It's shared here that Pia had actually auditioned for American Idol 5 times before she was 'discovered' and made to the top 10. A clip of Celine is played on the stage screen, which is an interview of hers with Andy Cohen. During this bit, Celine reveals that she had essentially been duped by Foster when 'All By Myself' was recorded in the studio, when Foster had essentially transposed the song's 'high note' to be a key and a half higher than what Celine had prepped for. Although she had hit the note in the studio, on this night Foster used this background to introduce vocal powerhouse Pia back onstage where she effortlessly nails the note... again, I would proclaim that Pia's live version sounded better than Celine's studio-recorded version of the song.
Katharine takes to the stage and the audience is reminded that she had performed on the TV drama series 'Smash' and a Netflix series called 'Country Comfort'. Here, we get to see a playful performance side of McPhee as she sings and dances to 'Redneck Woman'. Probably not one of the tonight's highlights for me as I had been enjoying the musicality of McPhee's deliveries up to this point and felt that her southern twang was a bit forced, but to each their own.
The 2nd Oscar loss of Foster's was Whitney Houston's 'I Have Nothing' from The Bodyguard. The stinger here was fully realized with his 3rd loss, when his 'The Prayer' (Quest For Camelot) later lost to Whitney Houston ('When You Believe' from Prince of Egypt), again denying Foster of reaching his EGOT status.
Varelo accompanied Foster for one last vocal solo, to which he sang 'Nessun dorma' and he stunned the audience with an immaculate performance.
Toscano, Varelo, and McPhee all came out together to perform 'Got To Be Real' as the show's finale, after which everyone exited the stage.
McPhee and Foster came back out for one encore and performed to 'I'll Be Seeing You', from the jazz genre of musical style to which Foster quipped that his wife had 'a great feel for this (type of) music.'
The show was relatively short, lasting just about 1 hr. 45 mins, but it didn't feel short in any way. The duration was just perfect and the song choices, although there were many from which to select of Foster's hit arsenal, clearly reminded the audience of just how many great songs for which he was responsible. Every once in a while it could be heard in the audience in a faint whisper 'he wrote this one too?' David Foster is a musical genius, and Katharine (McPhee) Foster could have put on a 1-song concert by singing 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow' alone, yet she did very well to showcase her singing style diversity on this night in Orlando. Just when you thought there couldn't be any more musical development possible, the heavenly voices of Pia Toscano and Fernando Valero were added to the fix. Layer on decades of backing instrumentals: it would be almost impossible to find another show that could demonstrate the level of talent that was on display tonight.
This was an excellent show which offered up zero wrong notes. The Hit Man and Mrs. Hit Man definitely hit the mark and then some with this show!!
- Bailey Guinigundo