If I were reduced to just one word to describe Katherine Jenkins in concert, I’d pick “charming.” With her radiant good looks, beautiful voice, courtly manners and shyly fetching stage charisma, it’s almost like having a princess come sing for you. In her first Fresno appearance Sunday at the Warnors Theatre, she offered an elegant evening to an audience ecstatic to see her.
Jenkins noted that the concert was a year to the day she started her TV program “Dancing with the Stars.” She’s been a well-established name in the U.K. for years now, but success on the program catapulted her to far greater fame in the U.S. than before. Those in the audience hoping for dancing had to settle for just a few moves and a sweetly sung “I Could Have Danced All Night,” but she did tell those gathered that “it seems strange to be standing in one spot and not shimmy.”
The program was an accessible collection of light classics, musical-theater pieces and heavily orchestrated pop tunes. (I’m not sure Leonard Cohen fans would warm to her version of “Hallelujah,” but different tastes for different people.) Jenkins, who told the audience she didn’t discover classical music until age 14, offered some lovely selections from “Carmen,” and I was touched by her tribute to Edith Piaf with “La Vie en Rose.”
Depending on the piece, it’s hard for me to warm to a soprano who’s being rigorously amplified, especially the higher she gets, which left me a little cold on her rendition of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Love Never Dies.” (It’s not a very good song, which also influenced me.) Her intense version of “The Godfather” theme song impressed me most. We got to see a hint of an earthier, more passionate Jenkins, as opposed to her lightly charming, perfect-granddaughter demeanor.
For the audience, the singing was a prime draw, but you could tell Jenkins’ stage presence was a big part of the equation as well. Each time she entered and exited the stage — wearing a different vivid solid-colored gown — she waved and smiled at people in the crowd, and I think I actually heard a few people coo. “She’s so beautiful,” the woman sitting next to me gasped as Jenkins made her final entrance in a gorgeous peach frock.
A small amplified orchestra under the baton of an animated Anthony Inglis, who travels with Jenkins, accompanied Jenkins. The balance and overall sound were mostly satisfactory when Jenkins was singing, but at times the orchestra sounded vaguely disembodied, and the orchestra-only pieces were brash and occasionally tinny to my ear. I was disappointed in the orchestra’s “Morricone Medley,” in particular the oboe solo in “The Mission,” which had a botched introduction and some intonation issues. But for the most part, the music was fine. Without an orchestra shell to help the acoustics in the cavernous Warnors Theatre, I understand why the orchestra needed to be miked. But it certainly wasn’t an ideal listening environment for instrumental music.
Still, this night was all about Jenkins, and it’s easy to see why she connects with audiences. She’s eager and giving on stage, but also joyfully polite about it. By the time she got through her encore, “Time to Say Goodbye,” there were plenty in the audience who were sad that time had come.