weather icon Mostly Cloudy

Jackie Evancho, the 11-year-old with a big voice, joining David Foster’s ‘Friends’

Being a better singer than Lady Gaga (at least in technical terms) doesn’t stop Jackie Evancho from wanting to do a duet with the pop goddess next year.

“I do listen to pop. I basically listen to anything on the radio,” says the 11-year-old who captured the public imagination with her operatic, big-as-all-outdoors voice.

Offstage, Jackie likes to swim in hotel pools and looks forward to spending Christmas at home in Pennsylvania. “I’m crazy about my home,” she says in a telephone chat.

“She’s a real kid,” says producer David Foster, who hosts the young singer Thursday as the only billed guest in his third “David Foster & Friends” concert of the year at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.

“She shows no signs of being who she is when she’s not performing,” Foster says. “She’s out running and playing with the dog, hitting her brother, the typical stuff.

“Coupled with that though, she’s obviously complex,” he adds. “Her musical brain is very complex. She sits and works things out at the piano; she plays violin. She’s a true prodigy.”

Foster discovered Jackie three years ago, when she entered one of the talent contests he conducted in tandem with his tours. “Even at age 8, she was incredible,” he says.

Jackie says the movie version of “Phantom of the Opera” brought out her singing abilities. “I went to watch the movie with my mom and my brother Jacob. It was really good, and I loved it so much, I ended up doing a talent competition because my mom had heard me singing the songs around the house.”

However, the talent contest was the first of her two infamous second-place finishes. The bigger one came when the rest of the world discovered her on “America’s Got Talent” last year. Las Vegas-based Michael Grimm pulled the upset to become the surprise season winner of the NBC talent contest (Jackie says she still keeps up with Grimm on Facebook).

Foster produced “Dream With Me,” Jackie’s full-length album debut (after a Christmas EP), released last summer. She says it tested her singing skills, which have not been shaped by as many years of vocal coaching as some listeners would assume.

“There’s tons of songs that are a really hard challenge for me,” she says, citing “Ombra Mai Fu” from Handel’s opera “Serse.” “When I first started out singing that song, it was very complicated for me.”

But Foster says Jackie “thinks like an adult” in the recording studio.

“Here’s the thing you need to know about Jackie. And this I know unequivocally. The most amazing thing about her is to me, not her voice, although that is completely amazing and it shocked me,” he says.

“But the most amazing thing about her is the way she understands what she’s supposed to do. She understands better than most adults I work with. If you give her an idea, she gets it. If you tell her this is the arc of the song, she gets it. If you tell her she should unload at this point of the song, she gets it. She glues herself to the music.”

Jackie keeps the holiday spirit going on her new “Heavenly Christmas,” and her favorite songs on the album aren’t necessarily the most operatic.

“Walking in the Air” was “the one I was excited to sing,” she says. “The tune is all exciting and it’s interesting. Most Christmas songs have the same feeling. Silent and mellow. This one is big and exciting.” She also likes “Believe” because, well, she likes “The Polar Express” movie it came from.

Foster says the most common question he fields about Jackie is what will happen down the road. Will her voice change in adulthood? Will the public still be as enthralled?

“I never have thought of her as a novelty, ever,” he says. “I believe in my heart that if she wants, she will be the greatest opera singer of her time when she gets into her 20s. If that’s what she wants.”

Perhaps it will be combined with movie stardom. Jackie just completed her first feature-film acting role with Robert Redford in “The Company You Keep.” Whatever she chooses, Foster has faith in her. (No surprise she didn’t know who Redford was. But her mom did.)

“She’s so smart, she knows the difference. She knows good from bad. And she knows good is the enemy of great,” Foster says. “She’s going to make some great records in her life.”

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
Heavier traffic expected from EDC festival attendees
Electric Daisy Carnival attendees began to vacate the Las Vegas Motor Speedway starting before 5 a.m., the majority heading south on Interstate 15.
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
DJ Steve Aoki visits Las Vegas comic book store
DJ Steve Aoki visits Torpedo Comics in Las Vegas Friday, May 17, 2019, for a signing for his new comic book series "Neon Future." (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas Smith & Wollensky opens at The Venetian
After 18 years, the Smith & Wollensky location on Las Vegas’ south Strip closed in 2017, to be re-born two years later with a rib-cutting — instead of a ribbon-cutting — in The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
Colin Cantwell, Creator Of Iconic Star Wars Ships Visits Vegas
Colin Cantwell, who created and designed such "Star Wars" ships as the X-Wing fighter, and Death Star, met fans at Rogue Toys in Las Vegas today. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Beauty & Essex in Las Vegas makes an EDC Wonder Wheel
In honor of the Electric Daisy Carnival, Beauty & Essex at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas makes its Wonder Wheel party-worthy. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Giada talks Vegas Uncork’d
Giada De Laurentiis talks during Aperitivo Hour, a Vegas Uncork'd event, at her Caesars Palace restaurant, Pronto, May 10, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Scenes from Vegas Uncork’d 2019 on the Las Vegas Strip
The 13th edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit brought four days of food, wine, celebrity chefs and parties to town, May 9-12. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Three ingredients Gordon Ramsay can’t live without
Bon Appetit's Andy Baraghani interviews the "Hell's Kitchen" chef during a Vegas Uncork'd event at Caesars Palace, May 11, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas Uncork’d launches wiith bubbles and a blade
Dozens of chefs representing some of the Strip’s top restaurants gathered Thursday at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas to launch the 2019 edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bunky the Clown at the clown convention
Bob "Bunky the Clown" Gretton talks about his life as a clown and the Clown Convention which was in Las Vegas at Texas Station this week. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Frying soft-shell crab at Lola’s in Las Vegas
At Lola’s: A Louisiana Kitchen in Las Vegas, soft-shell crab is breaded and fried and served either as an appetizer, po’boy or platter. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
The Stove in Henderson makes Pecan Pie Pancakes
At The Stove in Henderson, chef/partner Antonio Nunez stacks buttermilk pancakes with pecans and dulce de leche and tops them pie crust crumbs. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vinnie Paul remembered at Count's Vamp'd
The late rocker's favorite table at one of his favorite clubs in Las Vegas. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
4DX movie experience at Red Rock
4DX movie experience during a demo reel at Red Rock. (Christopher Lawrence/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
What To Do On May The 4th
There are plenty of events going on May the 4th this year around Las Vegas. Celebrate Star Wars and Comic Book Day all at once. The Rogue Toys, the 501st, Rebel Legion and Millennium Fandom Bar are all hosting fun events to help celebrate your geek-dom. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Water Sports Introduces New Attraction At Lake Las Vegas
Las Vegas Water Sports will debut its new aqua park attraction at Lake Las Vegas Days this weekend. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Making the Space Invader at Greene St. Kitchen in Las Vegas
Lysa Huerta, pastry cook at Greene St. Kitchen at the Palms in Las Vegas, starts with angel food cake, Fruity Pebbles ice cream and strawberry sorbet to create a space creature engulfed in flashing lights and swirling mists. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Pools
The M, Park MGM and NoMad are just a few great pools in Las Vegas. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jose Andres explains Iberico pork
(Al Mancini/Las Vega Review-Journal)
Inside Life is Beautiful
Craig Asher Nyman explains how Life is Beautiful festival is booked and talks about this year's line-up. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America Pops Up In Vegas
Tattoo'd America, a new pop-up attraction on the Linq Promenade, had their grand opening Friday. The attraction is dedicate to the culture of tattoos. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Jose Andres gets key to the Strip
Chef Jose Andres was presented with a Key to the Las Vegas Strip and a proclamation declaring April 26 Jose Andres Day in Clark County by County Commissioner Tick Segerblom on Friday. The ceremony took place at his restaurant Bazaar Meat in the SLS Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sadelle’s in Las Vegas makes a grilled cheese with an inverted bagel
Michael Vargas, executive sous chef at Sadelle’s at Bellagio in Las Vegas, inverts an everything bagel and grills it with Swiss, cheddar and Muenster cheeses to make the Inverted Bagel Grilled Cheese. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures
Kassandra Lopez at Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Prime rib is carved tableside at Lawry’s The Prime Rib in Las Vegas
Dave Simmons, executive chef of Lawry’s The Prime in Las Vegas, which plans special cuts for National Prime Rib Day, demonstrates the restaurant’s service from rolling tableside carving carts. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making gluten-free pizza at Good Pie in Las Vegas
Good Pie owner/pizzaiola Vincent Rotolo makes his gluten-free pizza.
Rockabilly fans enjoy Las Vegas weather poolside
Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender runs Thursday, April 18th through Sunday, April 21st with a huge car show on Saturday featuring The Reverend Horton Heat, The Delta Bombers and The Coasters. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Brownie sundae at VegeNation in Las Vegas is completely vegan
Donald Lemperle, chef/owner of VegeNation in Las Vegas and nearby Henderson, NV, makes his sundae with ice cream made with coconut and almond milks, a brownie made with coconut flour and oil and organic sugar and cacao, and fresh fruit. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Roger Waters melds classic rock, modern concerns

The tour is called “Us + Them” for reasons made very clear. But Roger Waters’ tour stop Friday at T-Mobile Arena also seemed at times to alternate between “us” and “him.”

Mel Brooks makes his Las Vegas debut — at age 91

Comic legend witnessed classic Vegas shows, and his Broadway show ‘The Producers’ played here. But Wynn Las Vegas shows will be his first on stage.