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Before a sold-out house of 18,000, the Hollywood Bowl ushered in its 90th anniversary season on Friday, June 17, with an evening dedicated to the newest inductees to its Hall of Fame, Harry Connick Jr. and Gloria Estefan. Both singers performed in concert with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, conducted by Thomas Wilkins.
The open-air evening began with a welcome by actress Helen Mirren. Then out came a team of acrobats in a preview of Cirque de Soleil‘s new Iris show, which begins previews July 21 at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood. Their most distinctive and jaw-dropping trick? Springing off each others’ hands, somersaulting in the air and landing again on their partners’ hands.
Actress Hilary Swank introduced honoree and New Orleans native Connick Jr., a friend since they filmed the 2007 film P.S. I Love You together. The pianist and jazz singer start off somewhat stiffly with “The Way You Look Tonight”, pausing afterwards to acknowledge the award. “I’ve never been in a hall of fame for anything so it’s a big deal. I’m just honored,” said Connick Jr., who noted that his voice had cracked a couple of times. “I’m sure you heard it. I don’t care, I mean, it’s not like I’m performing brain surgery on someone. If you make a mistake, it’s OK. But I was thinking like the Cirque de Soleil people, like what’s the equivalent of cracking a note for them? You die… So I’m very happy to be a singer. I might crack some more notes because it’s very comfortable to know that I can do that and live.”
Connick loosened up after the first song and then revved up, diving deep into his hometown jazz roots by the end of his set on such songs as “Bourbon Street Parade” and “Mardi Gras in New Orleans,” accompanied by brass players Mark Braud and Lucien Barbarin.
After intermission, actor Andy Garcia introduced Estefan. “We have a common bond. Our families, both fled to this country when we were young children to escape the repression of Castro’s Cuba. Our parents had to start all over again, struggling to give a better life in Miami,” he said.
In a video montage spotlighting Estefan’s career, one moment especially stood out, the day in 1990 when he tour bus crashed near Scranton, Pennsylvania. Eastefan — who fractured her spine — but underwent a complete recovery, recalled on video that it happened not long after she released her single, “Get On Your Feet.”
Said the singer: “‘Get on Your Feet’ was a song that got thrown back at me by millions of people after I had my accident. If you listen to the lyrics, it talks about you know getting through adversity and little did I realize when I recorded this song what was gonna come at me.”
Estefan sang hits including “Mi Tierra,” “Reach” and “Conga,” with backing by the Miami Sound Machine and occasional accompaniment by Garcia on bongos, congas and cowbell. “Thank you for this amazing honor. I heard that I am the first Latina in the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame. What an honor to be the first at anything at this point in my life. I like it very much,” she said.
The opening night, which raised $1.25 million for the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s music education programs, ended with Connick Jr and Estefan dueting on “Come Rain or Come Shine,” followed by a display of fireworks erupting into the sky from behind the bandshell.
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