Music News & Reviews

Harry Connick Jr. takes a break from Broadway to come to Richmond

Harry Connick Jr.

4 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 18 at the St. Marks Roman Catholic Church in Richmond. Sold out.

You have to marvel at the stamina of an artist like Harry Connick Jr.

In concert on Sunday for two intimate but sold-out performances at St. Mark Roman Catholic Church in Richmond (where he also performed in March), Connick is maintaining a seemingly unreal schedule this holiday season.

For starters, the singer, pianist and band leader opened on Broadway last weekend in a new version of the Burton Lane/Alan Jay Lerner musical On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.

The production was first staged on Broadway in 1965 and was popularized in a 1970 film version starring Barbra Streisand. When word came last March that Connick would be featured in a new On a Clear Day, Dave Itzkoff of The New York Times called the impending production "a stage revival we didn't expect to see in this or any other lifetime." (But in the review of Sunday's opening performance, the Times' Ben Brantley panned the show from start to finish, concept to execution.)

We can only assume that the musical will call on an understudy to play the role of Dr. Mark Bruckner for a matinee performance Sunday so Connick can be in Richmond.

There is no denying that Broadway is in Connick's blood. He was a performer and composer for the short-lived 2001 musical Thou Shalt Not and scored big in the 2006 revival of The Pajama Game. Both of those shows garnered him Tony nominations.

But Connick has also placed his music front and center on Broadway stages. Performances from a two-week engagement in July 2010 at the Neil Simon Theatre in New York were released last summer as Harry Connick Jr. In Concert on Broadway. The recording has been nominated for a Grammy Award for best traditional pop vocal album. It will compete in February against records by Tony Bennett, Susan Boyle, Seth MacFarlane and Streisand.

Those lucky enough to have tickets for the Richmond concerts are likely to hear something more seasonal than Broadway fare. Connick's weekend break from New York this weekend was advertised as "Harry Connick Jr. performing Christmas music." The singer/pianist will have considerable source material to draw from.

Connick has several holiday releases in his discography, but the newest, 2011's Music From The Happy Elf, might be the most enlightening. Instead of the grand orchestral pop that dresses 1993's When My Heart Finds Christmas or 2003's Harry for the Holidays, The Happy Elf favors instrumental jazz trio music that reveals several musical accents from Connick's continually inspirational homeland of New Orleans. (For my review of Music from The Happy Elf, go to Page 32.)

It's an appropriate recording for the Richmond concerts: intimate, involving holiday jazz for an equally intimate setting.

Also this weekend

■ Here's a suitably rocking bill for the last weekend before Christmas Eve: Lexington's own blues, jazz and what-have-you trio The Tallboys with an opening set by the Buffalo, N.Y.-bred, rural Kansas-based guitar rock outfit The Midnight Ghost Band. The two will square off at The Green Lantern, 497 West Third Street, on Friday night with Stampede opening. (9 p.m. $5. (859) 252-9539.)

■ Cincinnati folk-rock favorite Over the Rhine will present its annual hometown holiday shows this weekend. It performs Saturday at the Taft Theatre, 317 East Fifth Street in Cincinnati (8 p.m., $32.50); and on Sunday at the cozier St. Elizabeth's Church, 1757 Mills Avenue in neighboring Norwood (3 p.m., $20). For more info on the performances, go to Overtherhine.com.

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