BWW Interviews: Sam Harris Talks Directing New York's Finest - The Leading Men of Broadway


Chris Isaacson Presents New York's Finest -The Leading Men of Broadway directed by Sam Harris @ the Ford Amphitheatre on September 16. Harris certainly needs no introduction. His brilliant performances on stage/TV over the years have dazzled audiences worldwide. In our chat, he talks about this exciting show and other theatrical interests.

Let's talk about New York's Finest - The Leading Men of Broadway on September 16. As director, give us a little preview of what we can expect to see from these great singers!

Well, we titled it "New York's Finest" for a reason. Not only are these guys immensely-freakily talented, they also happen to be immensely-freakily sexy too. So the word "finest" has multiple meanings. This is not your mother's "Theatre Under the Stars" kind of thing. There's a very provocative opening number sung very seductively by our only lady, Frenchie Davis, where we put a brassy Broadway song in a mashup with Alicia Keyes and Lady Gaga songs. I think it's going to be very hot and also let the audience know what they're in for. Also, we're trying to construct the sense of a real show - where you feel the performers have a chemistry and know and work together. There are duets and trios and groups songs. As far as the cast, I am a lucky director. Levi Kreis takes my breath away. Such an incredible musician. Frenchie(Davis) is so available. She's got that great voice and she's willing to go to unpredictable places. David Burnham is striking and powerful and then hysterically funny. Brandon Victor Dixon is like silk. And he moves me to tears. Keeping Ace Young clothed has turned into a challenge in itself... I feel I will lose this battle. I don't want to give too much away.

Is there any chance you might surprise us by singing a song or two on stage?

I don't think so. It's come up from time to time and, while I'm flattered and would love to sing with these amazing talents, my role needs to be from the outside in. Believe me, they don't need me on the stage.

SAM at the Coronet was such a great show and I believe you wrote that. Is this your first directing and creating for the stage outside of your own shows?

Thank you so much. Yes, I wrote and sort of self-directed SAM, although Oz Scott came in at one point and really helped me rethink, dig deeper and go further. In addition to creating my own shows forever and directing a few things that I've written, I've contributed material or concepts to other performer's shows - for instance I wrote a lot of Liza's Palace show a couple of years ago. But officially directing is definitely not my usual thing. And I really love it. I love structuring. I love writing. I love communicating and exploring new avenues of material with actors. I love twists in subtext and circumstance. I love to connect things through juxtaposition and arc. But I am not remotely technically savvy when it comes to lighting and that whole end. So I am learning a lot as I go. Thankfully, I'm surrounded by experts and this cast is so gifted that they Make Up For any shortcomings I may have.

I understand you are again planning on doing Jolson on stage. Talk a little about this project.

I've been involved with it for some time and it has gone through several incarnations, and I can honestly say this show coming to fruition is a dream come true. As most of the people who come to Broadway World know, mounting a musical can take years. It's a ridiculously crazy and arduous task, which requires tenacity and belief beyond beyond. Richard Winkler, who is our producer, is the real deal. A man of rare commitment and integrity. And our director, Matt Lenz, is an incredible visionary and smart smart smart. And I've been like a dog on a bone - I believe in it so much. The show is dark and complex and yet buoyant and redemptive. It is a period piece told with an absolutely contemporary style and device. We will be announcing our plans for 2012 soon and our intention is, of course, taking it to Broadway. I continually cross everything, including my eyes, which makes it difficult to read and drive.

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Don Grigware Don Grigware is an Ovation nominated actor and writer whose contributions to theatre through the years have included 6 years as theatre editor of NoHoLA, a contributor to LA Stage Magazine and currently on his own website:

Don hails from Holyoke, Massachusetts and holds two Masters Degrees from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in Education and Bilingual Studies. He is a teacher of foreign language and ESL.

Don is in his fifth year with BWW, currently serving as Senior Editor of the Los Angeles Page.

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