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Harry Connick Jr. gets ready to croon on Broadway

Harry Connick Jr. performs during his album release

Harry Connick Jr. performs during his album release event at Hiro Ballroom at The Maritime Hotel in Manhattan. (Sept. 22, 2009) Photo Credit: Getty Images

Harry Connick Jr. not only handles multiple music genres, but also varied movie and TV roles - from his parts in "Memphis Belle" and "Independence Day" to his role on "Will & Grace" as Dr. Marvin "Leo" Markus from 2002 to 2006.

But, of course, the New Orleans native is known for his first love, music. And that's what brings him to Broadway's Neil Simon Theatre for an extended run of shows.

Audiences can expect to hear the range of Connick's genres - pop, jazz, funk, swing, blues, originals and selections from the Great American Songbook.

"We change every night," Connick said recently over the telephone from his home in Connecticut. "I like to just go out and have fun and develop something with the audience on a nightly basis.

"I know we're going to be playing some songs from the new CD, but we kind of wing it out there and take it as it goes. The new CD ['Your Songs'] is a collection of songs that are really popular, and they're arranged in a very easy-listening way. There's elements of jazz in them, but they're not complicated by any means. They're just accessible tunes everybody knows and can sing along to, and that's the kind of CD I wanted to make this time around."

 

 

Some enchanted album

 

The three-time Grammy winner presents 14 timeless classics on the release, including "Mona Lisa," "All the Way," "And I Love Her," "Some Enchanted Evening" and "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face." When the 43-year-old entertainer is at the piano, he's as likely to croon a big-band hit from the 1930s as a current pop tune or a song he wrote and composed himself. "For me, it's about melody and lyrics," Connick said.

"You know how you can get a song stuck in your head, and sometimes it gets stuck there for the wrong reasons - like if it's really a corny, repetitive thing, that's irritating. But other times you sing a few lines of a song, and you can't remember the whole thing, but it's intriguing to you.

"The same thing happens to me. I'll say, 'What is that song?' And when I find out what it is, I notice it has an incredible melody or great lyrics. For me, they have to have both.

"Fortunately, there's a huge amount of songs that have that. And then it doesn't matter where it's from or what era it's from. If it's a great song, it's a great song. It's fun not only to write your own music and introduce new stuff, but to go back and find these gems."

Connick started preparing for his career at the age of 3, when he took up the piano. He delivered his first public performance at 6, and three years later performed Beethoven's "Piano Concerto No. 3 Opus 37" with the New Orleans Symphony Orchestra.

The talented youngster was just 10 when he recorded for the first time as a member of a local jazz group. His career reached critical mass when Columbia Records signed him at 19 and quickly released his first album, "Harry Connick Jr."

 

 

Doing what he loves

 

The debut album concentrated mainly on Connick's piano playing of standards. The follow-up album, "20," showcased his singing and proved that his musical talent extended beyond his prowess on the piano.

"I don't know where it came from or why I was picked to have the type talent I have," Connick said, a serious tone coming into his voice. "It's a blessing. I'm so fortunate, and I try to work hard to make the best music I can."

Doing the best he can has resulted in Connick's record sales topping 25 million worldwide. Although he has been performing most of his life, he said he has never enjoyed it more than he does right now. "Oh, man, I'm having a great time," he said. "I think the further you get into your career, the more you appreciate your good fortune. The fact that I've been able to stick around as long as I have, and have some level of success at it, really is a blessing.

"Music has always been a part of my life, and I can't remember ever wanting to do anything else. I was never an athlete or a big academic star, and music for me was always really important. I remember being in New Orleans and hearing music virtually every weekend with my family. I was fascinated by it. It was incredible."

 

WHEN | WHERE Harry Connick Jr. plays the Neil Simon Theatre, 250 W. 52nd St., Thursday through July 19, 21-26 and 28-29. Tickets, $50-$135, through Ticketmaster, 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com.

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