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The Statesman

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Stony Brook Catches McPheever

As the lights dimmed and the music began, an idol walked onto the stage.

Wearing a sparkling black blazer and spiked tan heels, Katharine McPhee took the mic at Stony Brook’s Staller Center on Nov. 7. McPhee performed songs from her two most recent albums, Unbroken and Christmas is the Time, as well as old favorites and covers. Hundreds of Stony Brook students, as well as those from the community, came to the packed performance.

Most well known as a successful contestant and runner-up on the fifth season of American Idol in 2006, McPhee is now a singer-song writer, actress and philanthropist. In her rise to fame in the past four years, she has released three albums, guest starred in television series such as Crime Scene Investigation and acted in multiple films including The House Bunny.

The concert began with “It’s Not Right,” off of McPhee’s album Unbroken and was quickly followed by “Over It,” McPhee’s first hit single off her self-titled debut album that was released in 2007.

McPhee’s performance included a wide variety of songs with upbeat tunes and slow somber ones. McPhee also shared many short stories throughout the concert that she said inspired many of her lyrics. She said the stories were intended to take the audience on a journey through her life.

“View tonight as a way to get to know me,” McPhee told the audience. “We’re all in one big living room getting to know each other.”

The short stories included a tale of McPhee’s high school sweetheart Hank, and her rivalry with a girl nicknamed “Candy Cane.” She also spoke about feeling like a Russian nesting doll as a child, feeling as though she was “the doll that fits inside all of the other dolls.”  Later in the performance, McPhee jumped onto the grand piano to sing “Say Goodbye” and pulled an audience member onto the stage for “Brand New Key.” Both of the songs were off her album Unbroken.

Throughout the night, McPhee danced to the upbeat songs and sat for the serious ones. Her cover of Cee Lo Green’s “Forget You” had many audience members dancing and clapping in their seats. When McPhee danced her way down into the audience, she was met with thundering applause.

One change in wardrobe and multiple songs later, McPhee ended her performance with a mix of her song “Had It All” off of Unbroken, and Jason Mraz’s popular hit “I’m Yours.” For her encore McPhee sang “It’s Not Christmas Without You,” which she co-wrote for her Christmas album, as well as her idol rendition of “Somewhere over the Rainbow,” that she performed on the finale of American Idol in 2006.

After the concert, McPhee spent time meeting fans, signing autographs and taking pictures. Before the show, McPhee sat down with The Statesman to talk about her career and her ambitions as a performer.

McPhee, a 26 year-old California girl, described herself conversationally as having a short attention span. In her sound check at Stony Brook, she joked with the band, tap danced and sang cabaret on the grand piano. So what does the future have in store for this idol?

McPhee talked about her passion performing. A former theater student, McPhee believes that everything is a performance.

“I love performing live, performing live for whoever’s out there,” McPhee said. “My show, that is acting, and to me that is performing; it’s putting on a show. So, to me, they’re equivilant in a sense.”

McPhee said that she loves being on movie sets. She just recently finished filming Shark Night 3D, a movie that will release sometime next year. McPhee said that she could never decide whether she prefers acting or singing but did say that she loves performing, no matter what size of the audience. And even though she’s sang in front of millions on American Idol, she still gets nervous.

“I’ll still be like ‘Oh God I got to make sure that I remember all this,” McPhee said. “There’s always anxiety, but then I walk out there and forget about all of the anxiety and I just have a good time.”

McPhee also spoke about her quick rise to fame and how sometimes being in the spotlight is often difficult.

“You see people who are even younger than me who have so much success and then they just fall apart and it’s because there’s so much pressure,” she said. “I feel that people love to blame Hollywood, and there is a certain amount of blame to go around, but I think a lot of the pressure comes from the artist themselves.”

McPhee says the biggest thing that has pressured her is own drive to succeed.

“I didn’t think Idol was necessarily going to be my route, but there was no doubt in my mind that I had to perform in some kind of way whether it be going on Broadway or whatever,” McPhee said. “So I was just very determined; I still am determined. There are still things that people say, people ask me all the time: What’s left to do? My God, there’s so much to do. I feel like I haven’t even started yet.”

Director of the Staller Center, Alan Inkles, said that he added McPhee somewhat last minute to the list of shows the Staller Center would hold this fall. He looked at McPhee as someone who might attract more students, but also be a performer that his regular audience would enjoy.

“Katharine McPhee was someone that I felt was just as much adult contemporary as much as she was pop,” Inkles said. “I thought my audience, other than students, who watch American Idol might come.”

Inkles also booked McPhee earlier in the year, in hopes that some students may come to see McPhee’s concert, but also attend more shows the Staller Center will hold in the spring that include performers like Savion Glover and shows like Spring Awakening.

The performance did attract many students. According to the Staller Center box office, nearly half of the 740-member audience was Stony Brook students. About 345 student tickets or First on Us Passes were sold or redeemed for the show. Many students said that they enjoyed the performance.

“We love Katharine McPhee,” said Derek Caruso, a senior psychology major. “I thought it was really good. I thought she did really well. She has a great voice and she was really personable, so it was good, and she had her stories and stuff, so I enjoyed it.”

Another student Pratha Katti, a freshman biomedical engineering student, got a free ticket to the show while on a tour of the Staller Center for her Introduction to Stony Brook class. She said that she “liked how [McPhee] told stories in the middle and related it to her songs.”

McPhee will be leaving for Japan at the end of this week to go on the United Service Organizations, or USO tour, to sing songs from her Christmas album to American troops.

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