Norm Lewis is probably best known from the Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, Side Show, The Who’s Tommy, Les Miserables and ABC’s Scandal. He has many other feathers under his cap, particularly a regional production of Dreamgirls with Jennifer Holliday.
Last night, Martha and I had the pleasure of seeing Norm perform at the Garner Performing Arts Center for the fourth season of the Broadway Voices Concert Series.
Norm took the audience on a wonderful, musical journey through his life. Beginning with a medley of his life in the church: Jesus Loves Me, ABC, What a Friend We Have in Jesus, Rock with Me, and This Little Light. Clearly, he let his mind wander during church, although he claims that he listened to the sermon every Sunday.
He told us about his journey from Florida to NYC, particularly about the music that helped him along the way. When he was in high school, “Be A Lion” from The Wiz was the song that helped him through and gave him confidence. His performance of the song, last night, was awe-inspiring. He sang “Corner of the Sky” from Pippin, explaining that the song was his anthem during college as he tried to figure out what he wanted to do with his life.
While he was sentimental about his musical adventures, he made many jokes. He never understood why his mom was so infatuated with one particular musician. He now understands, as he gave a sensual rendition of “It’s Not Unusual” by Tom Jones. During the song, he came into the audience and serenaded many women in the audience. He also wanted to pay tribute to Jennifer Holliday and faked a performance of “And I Am Telling You” (everyone laughed, but I was a bit disappointed when he said, “And I am telling you…I’m not singing that song”). He told us he wasn’t going to sing “Pinball Wizard” because he didn’t have his big sunglasses.
As we all know, Lewis played Javert in Les Miserables and participated in the 25th Anniversary Concert version as Javert. Expectedly, he gave a beautiful rendition of “Stars” but surprised us all when he immediately went into “Bring Him Home.”
“I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin'” was his salute to his character Porgy from the 2012 revival of Porgy and Bess. He then called upon a woman in the audience, to sing with him, as she had played Bess in a regional production of the show. While we were used to Norm singing “Bess, You Is My Woman Now” with Audra McDonald, Rosalind was stunning in her performance with Norm.
Norm’s night in Garner came to an end all too quickly and he gave a beautiful rendition of “Being Alive” from Company. As that is one of my favorite songs ever, it is no surprise that tears came to my eyes. Singing several more songs, Norm left the stage for the traditional (“self-indulgent” as he called it) encore. His finale piece was “We Live on Borrowed Time” by Barry Manilow.
Norm was able to visit with us briefly, but was so overwhelmed by the number of people that we did not get to ask any questions. I did think it was great that he shook hands with everyone, asking their name and saying, “I’m Norm. It’s so nice to meet you!” However, he did sign a program for us and we will be giving it away on our twitter!
For more information on Norm: