Norm Lewis, one of Broadway’s greatest singers, performs his “Swinging’ Christmas” show at Feinstein’s/54 Below
by: Linda Amiel Burns
Feinstein’s / 54 Below was packed for Norm Lewis’s opening night on December 20th for his remarkable show “Norm Lewis Wishes You a Swinging Christmas.” There is a reason that he is one of Broadway’s most sought-after leading men as his rich baritone, vocal artistry, and ingratiating personality were all on display for this exceptional evening of song. Norm’s debut show at Broadway’s supper club was smoothly directed by Richard Jay-Alexander with a “swinging” trio consisting of musical director Joseph Joubert on piano, George Farmer on bass and Perry Cavari on drums. Happily, the show was a mix of holiday classics, some of the songs that he is famous for, and some you would not expect him to sing.
The show opened with a lively “My Favorite Things” (Rodgers & Hammerstein) followed by a popular song of the season “Let It Snow” (Cahn & Styne). You would not expect Norm to sing the standard “Fever” (Cooley & Blackwell) in a holiday show, but he can sing the phone book and make it great. His sexy spin on this favorite was one of the highlights of the evening.
Norm was nominated for a Tony Award for his terrific performance in the 2012 revival of Porgy & Bess and his well-acted rendition of “I Got Plenty O’ Nuttin” demonstrated Porgy’s cheerful acceptance of poverty as freedom from worldly cares. Another memorable moment was “Bring Him Home” from Les Miserable where Norm’s gorgeous voice filled the room with this song of fervent prayer. You can understand why he was asked to sing “Birthday of a King” by William Harold Neidlinger for the Pope at Madison Square Garden and glad he included this song in the show.
Every night Norm plans to have a guest artist and for this show, Julie James, best known as the host of “Broadway Names with Julie James” on Sirius Radio, joined him on stage. She is a classically trained singer and they performed the moving duet from Porgy & Bess. Julie’s solo was an inspirational poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow set to music. Scheduled remaining guests are: 12/22 Nick Canellakis, 12/23 Bobby Lewis & 12/24 Alicia Bagley.
Although this was his debut at Feinstein’s/54 Below, Norm Lewis is a seasoned performer and totally comfortable in a cabaret venue. He is also a wonderful actor as shown in his plaintive version of Frank Loesser’s “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” A nice choice to close was “Thank You For Your Love” (Schmidt & Jones) as the audience jumped to their feet to give Norm a standing ovation, which doesn’t happen often in a cabaret show. Hope you can get to see Norm Lewis in person, but if you cannot, his solo debut album This Is The Life can be found on Amazon.com as well as cdbaby.com.
For more information, schedule of performance and to buytickets or make reservations: Visit www.Feinstein’s/54Below.com
Photos: Maryann Lopinto