North Central College Fine & Performing Arts

From HBO to Broadway, pianist Philip Fortenberry talks about his career and upcoming show

Published on 4/26/2018

From HBO to Broadway, pianist Philip Fortenberry talks about his career and upcoming show at North Central College.
Article Written by Annie Alleman, a freelance reporter for the Naperville Sun.

Remember that episode of “Friends” where Joey found his identical hand twin in Las Vegas? Philip Fortenberry can relate. Fortenberry was the hands of Michael Douglas in the HBO Liberace biopic “Behind the Candelabra,” playing all the piano parts in the film. Naperville audiences can hear the stories about Fortenberry’s time in residency at the Liberace Museum in Las Vegas and how he was recruited for the film at his show “The Hands of Liberace” at 6 p.m. April 29 at North Central College.

“This is a show that chronicles my life,” he said. “I was hired to be the hand and body double for Mr. Michael Douglas, who was playing the role of Liberace in the HBO film ‘Behind the Candelabra.’ Our local press here in Las Vegas was saying, ‘He’s the hands of Liberace,’ and I was losing my identity. I’m not a Liberace tribute artist; I just happened to get that gig. And I talk about the whole process of how that came about.

“I created this show basically to put it in perspective within the context of my life,” he said. “I give a framework to all of the music that I play, so it all comes from someplace in my own life as opposed to just a recital. It’s not that kind of thing. I’m a storyteller. I tell stories about growing up in the Deep South and coming from rural Mississippi and playing the piano from the time I was four years old.”

He will talk about studying music and how musical theater came into his life, how he left Mississippi for the bright lights of New York and ultimately made his move to Las Vegas. Some of his career highlights include being the pianist and associate conductor for the Broadway musical “Rocky,” where he also received the inaugural Ghostlight Award as Best Musician on Broadway.

Fortenberry has played for 10 Broadway productions and eight national tours, including such shows as “Cats,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Saturday Night Fever,” “Seussical — The Musical” and “The Lion King.” He made his Carnegie Hall debut as the pianist/conductor for Eartha Kitt and later returned to Carnegie Hall in concert with The Three Irish Tenors. He performed for the 40th Anniversary Celebration of the United Nations and accompanied singer Laurie Beechman at the 70th birthday gala for Lady Margaret Thatcher in Washington, D.C.

READ MORE IN THE FULL ARTICLE

Article Written by Annie Alleman, a freelance reporter for the Naperville Sun.

Show Information
Philip Fortenberry "The Hands of Liberace"
When: 6 p.m. April 29
Where: Madden Theatre at North Central College, 171 E. Chicago Ave., Naperville
Tickets: $30-$35   www.northcentralcollege.edu/show
Box Office: 630-637-7469