Katharine McPhee’s voice is strong, soaring and simply gorgeous, so there’s no doubt her performance on Sunday night at the University at Buffalo’s Center for the Arts would have been a great one no matter what. However, the crowd Sunday night didn’t just get an impressive and lively concert experience from McPhee – it was also witness to a $35,000 check presentation to the Ronald McDonald House of Buffalo.
McPhee’s appearance served as the annual holiday concert for the charity, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary of providing lodging for families of seriously sick or injured children.
You can’t really go wrong when a night starts out with something that positive, and following some brief opening remarks by organizer Rico Francani, owner of The Derico of East Amherst Cooperation – a McDonald’s organization – and Ronald McDonald House of Buffalo Executive Director Sally S. Vincent, McPhee wasted no time launching into her diverse repertoire.
As the season five runner-up of “American Idol” in 2006 and one of the leads in the recently canceled TV series “Smash,” a musical drama about the creation of a new Broadway musical, McPhee has repeatedly proven that she has the chops to do justice to pretty much any genre out there. However, she shines brightest when her voice has a chance to really ring out. It was fitting, then, that the majority of the show served as a tribute to her time on “Smash” and the songs she performed on it, from covers to original compositions.
McPhee started things off by entering the Mainstage Theatre from the back and waltzing down the aisle to the stage and to her band while singing “Would I Lie to You,” originally by the Eurythmics, and then slipping seamlessly into “Rumor Has It” by Adele. As she made her way through several other songs from the show – covering artists from Florence and the Machine to Death Cab for Cutie – McPhee twirled, danced and hopped her way around stage, all the while interacting with her band and the audience. It’s not everyone who can truly pull off the powerhouse vocals of someone like Adele or Florence Welch while bopping around the stage in four-inch heels, but McPhee made it all look – and sound –flawless.
Following a sexy, soulful performance of “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World,” originally by James Brown, McPhee turned an accessory malfunction into an “aww” moment for the crowd when she gave a long, sparkling necklace that was causing her trouble to a young fan in the front row.
McPhee ended the night with the rousing “That’s Life,” made famous by Frank Sinatra and in keeping with her “can’t keep me down” take on the ending of her TV role, and then a wonderful, powerful “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” She held herself back at first, but in the last half of the song, she really let her voice fly, a spectacle that could only result in one reaction: Wow. It was a fitting tribute to a great cause.