Harry Connick Jr review: Broadway Celebration of Cole Porter shines with True Love

I knew Connick was a gorgeous crooner and remarkable musician but until I sat in the opening night audience at the Nederlander Theater on Broadway, I did not realise what a consummate showman he is. He sings (way bigger than I expected), he tap dances (rather better than I expected) and he charms the socks off every single person there. Now, that I did expect, but it’s still pretty potent up close and personal. What is even more remarkable is that Harry wrote and orchestrated every part of the show (1,400 pages of score to be exact) as well as the script. Oh yeah, he directed it, too. But all that would mean nothing if he didn’t leave the audience sharing in his profound love for Cole Porter’s music – and the man, himself. 

Harry is probably best known internationally as the big-screen star of movies like Hope Floats or Memphis Belle and, of course, for soundtracking When Harry Met Sally.

His New Orleans jazz roots always shine through, including in one sensational sequence here, but he also has a deep connection to the Great American Songbook.

This year he released True Love, an album of Porter classics and some deeper cuts and his manager of 34 years suggested they do something different this time to promote it. She also assures me the show will find its way to the UK.

Months of intense work created this show – part concert, part biography and entirely entertaining from the tenderest moments on True Love to the shimmies and hip wiggles on Anything Goes.


  • Harry Connick Jr recalls key moment with wife Jill Goodacre

It starts with a video segment showing Harry climbing a giant statue of Porter to, literally, get inside his mind. It is slickly done with nice touches of humour but I wriggled a little in my seat waiting for the real show to start.

The show opens traditionally with a straight concert segment. The man, the music, that voice and a full orchestra with strings and beautiful bombastic brass… It’s already enough for most fans, but the night really comes alive with the first proper theatrical flight of fancy.   

A New Orleans jazz bar slides on stage for some freestyling, accompanied by a dazzling band culled from the main orchestra and bursting with extraordinary flair.

Purists will be in raptures while neophytes like me might actually be converted to jazz…

This is only topped when Harry pulls out a piano that stretches the length of the stage. It has eight full keyboards and he dashes up and down riffing out an exhilarating Begin the Beguine, unbelievably finding his place each time.

Still not enough? He climbs on top and tap dances along it with young Broadway star Aaron Burr, who plays a dream version of Porter, sprung from the big screen behind.

I will gently point out Harry is clearly not a trained dancer, although he delivers some mighty fine footwork, but there is irresistible infectious joy in the sequence. It’s my favourite part of the show. It feels like Harry’s up there dancing for all of us.

The pace flags a little with a hotel room sequence, but Harry changing his shirt mid-way ensures at least half of the audience remains fully engaged. 

Another extraordinary sequence is inspired by wife Jill.

Harry tells us: “She threatened to divorce me if I didn’t show people that I also arrange and write all my own orchestrations. I told her nobody cares about that, it’s boring.”

He was wrong. We get an wonderful glimpse into how musicians create, as Harry and his band try out different tempos and combinations on Night And Day, the notations and phrasings appearing on the giant screen behind as the star talks us through the process.

For a moment we all feel truly part of the music.

The show also allows Harry to share a little of Porter’s own life, from the grand lifestyle and private party barge in Venice to losing his legs and hiding his sexuality.

Harry’s strength has always been his embrace of all walks of life, love, music, art and culture. It also gives him a remarkable facility to connect with the audience, whether teasing late arrivals by changing the lyrics of It’s Just One of Those Things or ribbing daughter Georgia who has brought along a boyfriend Harry hasn’t met yet.

He may have a talent beyond anything most of us can dream of, but he also has the ability to bring us into his world so it is more than a show and becomes a shared experience.

Underpinned by the sublime music of Cole Porter and a truly top-notch orchestra, it makes for a heavenly night.



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