Seth MacFarlane, Liz Gillies offer standards, new songs at transportive Kennedy Center show

The pair of television stars showcase that elegant crooning is alive and well

*Lucky there’s a Family Guy,
lucky there’s a man who
positively can do…*
Jazz standards?

That’s right! Peter Griffin himself, Seth MacFarlane, along with Dynasty and Victorious star Liz Gillies toplined a National Symphony Orchestra concert at the Kennedy Center on Friday (Feb 2nd).

In what was billed as an evening of comedy and music, MacFarlane and Gillies displayed another side of themselves: Gillies has had a successful recording career, while MacFarlane has released several albums in the jazz genre. The latter has been nominated for five Grammy awards and introduced classy crooning through his Road To episodes of Family Guy, with Brian and Stewie dueting on numbers that would make Sinatra proud. While Gillies released her debut album, We Wish You The Merriest, a duets album with MacFarlane, in November last year.

The National Symphony Orchestra has a storied history of offering rare performances with national artists from a variety of fields. On this night, the Symphony, conducted by Joel McNeeley, a prolific arranger who has worked on MacFarlane’s albums and TV shows, including his two collaborations with Gillies, Merriest and the pandemic-era EP Songs From Home.

The show kicked off with Gillies and MacFarlane singing a tongue-in-cheek number about who should get top billing. Things continued with the pair’s duet “Cozy” and “It Doesn’t Cost a Dime to Dream” off of Songs From Home. Both fit right in with the standards and swinging show tunes of the 20s through the 50s that the pair offered, along with some modern adult contemporary classics.

A standout of the evening was the Eydie Gormet-Robert Goulet hit “Darn it Baby That’s Love,” a song that MacFarlane called the “‘W.A.P’ of its era” for its real-life depictions of love in the mid-20th century. The pair–whose voices perfectly complement each other–also had fun on Cole Porter’s “Let’s Do It” and the tender “I Remember It Well” from An American in Paris.

The night toggled between music and comedy, with MacFarlane and Gillies taking ample advantage of playing the nation’s capital. They poked fun at the government, the upcoming election, and more. And there were plenty of dick jokes and curse words thrown out. Kind of surreal to hear in such a prestigious venue as The Kennedy Center, with America’s finest orchestral musicians sitting inches away.

But that seems to be the point of these unique mash-ups between pop culture and symphonic music. It demystifies. It disabuses the attendee of the notion that prestige must equal stuffy. The Kennedy Center shows time and again how it can be classy without being prudish. Letting Seth MacFarlane compare “Netflix and Chill” to “Peacock and Fuck” is one such example.

For fan service, Stewie Griffin made a vocal appearance on “June in July” and MacFarlane let out a very Quagmire “Giggity” at the notion that Family Guy just crossed the 25th anniversary mark. But alas, there was no Family Guy theme to be heard. A shame, since it draws its lineage from the very type of crooner material MacFarlane so clearly loves. (See above re: the Road To episodes, which are also themselves an homage to Bob Hope. A digression for another article.)

Liz Gillies, for her part, had lots of costume changes and poked fun at MacFarlane’s ability to get a “cheap laugh” from his various voices. She then proceeded to “do the voice” from her character Jade West in Nickelodeon’s classic Victorious. It consisted of her saying “Hi I’m Jade West from Nickelodeon’s Victorious.” …in her normal voice.

Speaking of voices, MacFarlane earned a rousing ovation with his interpretation of the Nelson Riddle-arranged classic Broadway song “Old Man River.” His voice, already a lilting baritone, reached a deep richness that stunned the sold-out Concert Hall into complete awe. When he wants to show it, MacFarlane can prove he is a pure vocalist.

Liz Gillies stood out on “Moon River,” a song rarely interpreted by females (and a sentimental favorite for this reporter, who regrets never catching Andy Williams in his lifetime). But Gillies let loose on a faithful arrangement of “These Boots Were Made for Walkin,’” her voice sounding exactly like one you would hear in the era of Eydie Gormet and Nancy Sinatra. The authenticity was lent a hand, however, by legendary bassist Chuck Berghofer, who performed the iconic double bass line on the famous Nancy Sinatra recording.

Adding also to the timelessness of the night was the use of an old-time rectangular studio microphone that was perhaps an artifact of the Kennedy Center itself. The showpiece added richness to both artists’ respective tones during songs that called for it.

Seth MacFarlane and Liz Gillies do not get to perform together much. Chalk that up to the multitude of projects they have in Hollywood. But if you get a chance to hear them at a concert hall near you, go. It’s a different side to the star of a soap drama and the boundary-pushing adult animation star. The respect and love these two have for great American musical history is something worth celebrating.

Matt Bailey
Matt Bailey

Matt Bailey is a media producer currently located in Washington, DC. He has worked as a writer, producer, and host in a variety of mediums including television news, podcasting, daytime television, and live entertainment. He joined The Music Universe in 2016. Since then, Bailey has traveled across the country to review hundreds of concerts and interview some of music's biggest hitmakers. Bailey truly believes in the unifying power of experiencing live music. To reach him, please email