NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—During what was the highest-grossing performance ever in State Theatre history, Harry Connick Jr. and his band of ten musicians fired up the stage and kept Mardi Gras alive.
The evening was lively and playful, as Connick danced and engaged in banter with audience members.
The February 22 show coincided with the 2015 Academy Awards, but that didn’t stop the sold-out crowd of about 1,800 from packing the house.
“Why aren’t you guys at home watching the Oscars?” Connick playfully asked the crowd at one point. “I wish I was.”
Accompanied by a five piece brass section, an upright bass player, two percussionists and special guests Jonathan Dubose Jr. and trombonist Lucien Barbarin, the 47-year-old father of three sang and played both the piano and the trumpet.
At one point in the show, Connick was playing both instruments at the same time.
The band opened with Harry Connick’s “Only You” and performed several styles of music including old-styled rhythm & blues, and jazz. They played several covers including “It Had to Be You” and Ray Charles’ “I Got a Woman.”
Born to two well-connected New Orleans politicians, Connick was raised in New Orleans and started perfecting his craft at a very young age.
Every single time Connick’s band member played a solo, he would turn his back to the audience to give his full attention to the soloist.
At one point, special guest Barbarin stepped down from the stage to play on an audience member’s lap.
When the program switched to a more Gospel sound, Harry Connick Jr. said his special guest, Jonathan Dubose Jr., is the best Gospel guitar player in the world.
He entered the stage halfway through when the band switched gears to do a couple gospel songs including the classic Christian hymn, “How Great Thou Art.”
In addition to record-breaking sales for a single event, the State Theatre has been celebrating much success lately.
In 2014, over $700,000 was raised at their annual benefit gala, and the 94-year old venue was announced as the #1 theatre in New Jersey for the third year in a row by the trade publication Pollstar.
The State Theatre, also according to Pollstar, also ranked #19 worldwide in terms of ticket sales in 2014.
This year, the State Theatre has a new President & CEO, Thomas J. Carto.
“The State Theatre is fortunate to have found such an experienced, enthusiastic, and strategic-thinking individual with an undeniable passion for the performing arts,” said chairman of the State Theatre Board of Trustees, Douglas M. Garback, Sr., in an official press release.
Other upcoming acts at the State Theatre include Will Downing Jr., Joshua Bell, Natalie Cole, Wanda Sykes, Steve Winwood, Wayne Brady, Art Garfunkel and Ringo Starr.
Editor’s Note: The author of this article is an employee at the State Theatre.
Molly O'Brien started writing for New Brunswick Today as a freelance reporter in February 2013.
Molly writes stories on government, arts, free events, bilingual events, education and more.
Molly graduated from Rutgers University with a B.A. in French Linguistics and Linguistics, where she also studied Writing and Journalism. Molly also graduated Rutgers Law School.
She is open to any suggestions for stories or tips. You may contact her via text at 732-743-8993.