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Exclusive photos: Rising stars steal David Foster’s show at Mandalay

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Donny Osmond, David Foster and Chaka Khan at the rehearsal for “David Foster & Friends” at Mandalay Bay Events Center on Nov. 25, 2011.
Photo: Tom Donoghue/DonoghuePhotography.com

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David Foster & Friends: 11/25/11

David Foster & Friends Rehearsal: 11/25/11

David Foster and Friends - from YouTube.com

David Foster and Friends - from YouTube.com

David Foster and Friends - from YouTube.com

Celine Dion and Charice - from YouTube.com

Paul Anka - from YouTube.com

Donny Osmond - from YouTube.com

Fernando Varela - from YouTube.com

Jane McDonald - from YouTube.com

Jackie Evancho - from YouTube.com

If you missed “David Foster & Friends” at Mandalay Bay Events Center last night, you lost out on one of the most incredible concerts of all time. It even beat his last spectacular, as seen on YouTube, at Mandalay Bay.

This was truly a magical extravaganza, and three of the stars of the extraordinary show were unknowns in the audience. Onstage, two other unknowns -- for now -- stole the show. Our thanks to Tom Donoghue for his exclusive and extraordinary photo galleries of the rehearsal and concert.

When you have legendary musicians crying onstage and wiping tears from their eyes and an audience on its feet, you are witness to a unique experience. The arena audience was smiling ear to ear with the relaxed fun onstage and off.

It was so powerful and mesmerizing, nobody wanted to leave. At 10:10 p.m. after David, his musicians and singers passed 2 hours, he noted that it was going to be a long night. His closing act hadn’t even walked onstage yet, so he urged parents to call babysitters and say they’d be much later. That brought the house down!

I’ll get back to the unknown singing sensations in a moment, but let’s first talk about the stars.

“Glee” sensation Charice opened the night, and after she sang her three prepared songs, which thrilled the audience, she asked the hit-maker if she could sing a song dedicated to her father who had died just two weeks ago.

You could have heard a pin drop in the arena as she launched into “You Are So Beautiful,” which she sang toward heaven. It was just the first of the breathtaking moments of the night. “That was so unexpected,” David admitted. “I didn’t know that was coming. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything so emotionally beautiful.”

Here is Charice’s YouTube video of the night she sang with Celine Dion at Madison Square Garden in a tribute to her mother.

Earth Wind & Fire lead singer Philip Bailey ripped through the group’s super hits with not one person left in their seats as they danced along to his miracle voice of high and low pitch. Then the spine-tingling thrill again as he introduced his son, Philip Jr., who will lead another generation of the super group, and it was the magic of Michael Jackson, who David had recorded, all over again.

David, who was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame last year and has a Golden Globe and three Oscar nominations, entered the arena like a champion boxer glad-handling fans on his long walk to the stage. Over the years, he has written and recorded an unheard-of 47 Grammy-nominated hits -- with 16 wins -- for everybody from Barbra Streisand to Celine and Whitney Houston to Michael Buble.

He revealed that before his stardom, as a youngster in Canada and entering U.S. showbiz, that the legendary Paul Anka, who has nearly 100 bestselling hits in a staggering 56-year career, had been his mentor. “He even taught me how to use a knife and fork properly for swank Hollywood parties,” he revealed.

Et voila!, the Canadian chart-buster strolled onstage to the music of his own massive Frank Sinatra hit “My Way” and “The Tonight Show” theme of more than 30 years. That led to Paul jumping into the audience, climbing on seats, dancing with the crowd, posing for photos, as he never missed a beat singing his hits.

Then the two music masters pulled up a stool onstage for David to sit as Paul serenaded the 2-week newlywed -- David wed longtime girlfriend model Yolanda Hadid -- with a new version of “His Way.” Paul had written special lyrics in a salute to the tremendous talents of his friend. It was another ovation, and one lucky audience member received the handwritten lyrics.

David asked him to perform “Puppy Love” from his hundred hits, and none other than Donny Osmond strolled onstage to surprise Paul. They performed a delicious duet that had the crowd screaming for more. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Flamingo headliner Donny receive a warmer welcome and bigger applause for his hit.

Before they departed, David had Donny sing a Michael Buble blockbuster once they’d found the lyrics for Donny’s unrehearsed and riveting version. David also used a videomontage to show his star friends and their hits he wrote and recorded, plus a private glimpse at his family of five daughters from his three previous marriages. Then he introduced Yolanda, who he dated for five years; they wed on 11/11/11.

The evening ended with another one of David’s legendary sensory overloads: A sparkling Chaka Khan dressed head to toe in sequins and rhinestones was spell-binding with her anthem of “I’m Every Woman,” which she confided was news to her own children that she’d recorded it -- long before Whitney turned it into a hit from “The Bodyguard.” The audience was on its feet yet again and sang along with David and Chaka -- including yours truly!

As I said, it was an extraordinary night of music genius. I also said the night belonged to five stars of tomorrow, talented performers who were given the biggest love and raves of the night. David tricked us when a young, stunning beauty from Apple Valley, Calif., raced onstage singing Aretha Franklin’s “R-E-S-P-E-C-T.”

Angel Blue sang a few bars, already earning ooh’s and aah’s, when the piano prince stopped playing and told the audience that she was really an operatic sensation he’d discovered in his contest “Born to Sing USA.” Angel switched over to pop-opera, and the chills were back again.

David introduced young Fernando Varela of San Juan, Puerto Rico, now in Orlando, who he’d discovered from his online submissions in “Born to Sing.” How “American Idol” or “The Voice” missed this young man is a question for the ages.

Luciano Pavarotti has been reborn! Fernando has the voice and personality of a superstar. I don’t think I have ever seen an audience more spellbound with the majesty of his vocals, and again more cheers and a very long standing ovation.

No wonder David’s show was running over time, but it didn’t matter. Nobody was watching the clock. Then three miracles took place right before our eyes and ears. David waded into the audience to give people 10 seconds to prove they could blow him -- and us -- away.

He found three ladies who overpowered the arena. First there was a 17-year-old who got his attention and her 10 seconds. Except the teen, Malia Civetz, was so incredible that he let her sing the entire song she’d chosen. You could see the crowd mouthing the words of “A Star Is Born,” and we were watching it at the speed of live right in front of us.

But David hadn’t finished with the talent search within a show. Next up was a British visitor, Jane McDonald, from Yorkshire who has a self-titled album on YouTube back home but wants to move to the States.

It was her moment, and it was obvious that her dream to be a star here will come true. David was so impressed that he made her leave her center seat and walk out to the aisle and down to the front of the stage to glow in the spotlight. To say it was super special doesn’t begin to do it justice.

Would he be able to find a third winner and wrap it up with one exciting explosion of extraordinary? A few others received their 10 seconds, and then four rows from the front, an ordinary New Jersey housewife in a flashy gold ensemble got his attention. She told him that she wanted to sing one of his giant Celine hits, “Because You Loved Me,” and David warned that nobody could rise to that level.

She did! It was as if Celine herself was performing her holograph double act. Sandra Rose, who had traveled here for the Thanksgiving weekend in the hope of getting her “big break,” was beyond extraordinary -- and a total natural. She dazzled, she wowed, she enthralled. Forget the 10 seconds. She was so great that she received a full 5 minutes -- as long as Paul and Donny.

Again the audience was on its feet cheering. Sandra was invited backstage with her husband to meet David’s music team, and she told me: “Tonight my long dream came true. I have lived my life for this moment. I never gave up. To sing for David with his orchestra was what I always wanted.”

David summed it up best: “Holy crap! This has been amazing. Why am I bringing out these superstars onstage when we have them in the audience? Wow, what a night. We experienced a once-in-a-lifetime musical miracle. After tonight, it makes me want to do a show just with whom I find in the audience.

“I’ve worked with every giant in the record business, and just when you think you’ve already heard everything, even I was blown away. The night belonged to five unknowns who stole my show. I couldn’t be happier!”

David returns to Mandalay Bay on Dec. 29 with his pint-sized prodigy from his “Born to Sing USA” talent contest and then “America’s Got Talent”: 11-year-old sensation Jackie Evancho, who became the bestselling debut artist in 2010. This month, she also became the youngest person to give a solo concert at Lincoln Center.

Jackie recorded her first two chart-busting debut albums with David, “Dream With Me” and “Heavenly Christmas.” “This upcoming Vegas concert will also be a night to remember for all time,” David promised me.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

Follow VDLX Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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