By Melissa Griegel . . .

For many Broadway fans, Christmas season is not complete without attending Norm Lewis’s (Phantom of the Opera, Porgy and Bess, Les Misérables, Sweeney Todd, Chicken & Biscuits) annual Christmas show at Feinstein’s/54 Below. Norm usually does a week worth of shows, dressed in finest Christmas attire, and gives gifts to the guests. Last year, the show was broadcast via Zoom. Norm scheduled six in-person shows this year running from 12/16-12/24, and there is a live stream you can order and download from the Feinstein’s/54 Below site.

Norm was happy to be back in person this year and began his set from the bar, walking across the room to the stage singing a mash-up of “Soon As I Get Home” and “Home”, adding in his own lyrics such as “I know I am home here at 54” and “Here at 54, we are home!”

Nicolas King – Norm Lewis

The mood was festive and filled with many Norm Lewis fans, many of whom also wore their own sparkly holiday jackets. Norm, equally happy to be singing live in front of an audience, told the sold-out room: “This is a party! I love Christmastime and I love all of the holiday specials.” The self-described crooner next sang “Starting Here, Starting Now” from the show of the same name. He sang that song last month at the Oscar Hammerstein Awards honoring Starting Here, Starting Now – composer David Shire and lyricist Richard Maltby Jr.

Norm was accompanied on stage by pianist and Musical Director Joseph Joubert, bassist Michel Olatuja, and percussionist Perry Cavari. Richard Jay-Alexander directed the show, occasionally offering up reminders to Norm from the audience. Each show is a little different as each night Norm is joined by different guest artists, so Richard was there to keep up with the changes. Richard Jay-Alexander was himself a guest at the 12/16 show. Other guests include Nicolas King, Bobby Lewis, Emile Koutatchou, Douglas Lyons, Julie James, Joel Crump, Brandie Inez Sutton, Honey Beavers, and Peter Dager.

Michel Olatuja – Perry Cavari

For “The Little Drummer Boy”, Perry Cavari stepped away from the drum set to accompany Norm on the bongos. Other Christmas favorites included “The Christmas Song”, “Mary, Did You Know”, “Who Could Imagine a King”, “Why Couldn’t it be Christmas Every Day” and “What a Wonderful World” accompanied by Nicolas King. The two of them recently teamed up to record this song for King’s new album Act One. They released a video of the studio recording, but this was the first time the two of them sang the duet live.

Norm was set to appear in not one, but two different productions of 42nd Street during the last two years, both of which were shut down prior to opening due to the pandemic. He asked for a volunteer from the audience to be his Peggy Sawyer, and had her dress up for the part and read lines from the back of her prop suitcase, and join him on stage for “Lullaby of Broadway”.

“Peggy Sawyer “- Norm Lewis

“We need to respect one another,” Norm said prior to singing “What the World Needs Now is Love”. Norm traditionally meets guests at the bar after the show to chat with them and sign memorabilia and albums. Due to the recent increase of COVID cases, he instead turned up the lights and let the audience ask him questions from their seats. He also sang “Why Couldn’t It Be Christmas Every Day”, walking around the venue to make eye contact with his adoring fans, many of whom come every year. Pre-signed Christmas albums were available for purchase in the lobby.

The night wouldn’t be complete without a song from Phantom of the Opera, and he had the audience on their feet when he finished “Music of the Night.”  In the middle of the show, Norm sang Sondheim’s “Somewhere” from West Side Story, and he concluded the evening with his “No One is Alone” from Into the Woods. He ended the show saying, “I only have two more words for you: Stephen Sondheim.” It’s always a delight to spend the holiday week with Norm and his guests at 54 Below.

Norm Lewis continues at Feinstein’s/54 Below Dec. 22 thru 24 including live stream

Photos by Melissa Griegel Photography