SEE. SAM. SING!
After a grand opening on March 18th with the wonderful Jim Brickman, they wasted no time in bringing in one of Broadway's most talented entertainers, Sam Harris. Sam has been described as "part heart stealer, part soul man and a contemporary phenomenon" by the New York Post; an odd way to describe a very friendly, unassuming, fellow who just seems to immediately connect with an audience from the moment he greets them confessing that his would get over his stage fright if "everyone would just move closer to him so he could see them and feel them".www.njstac.com
Read my interview with Sam here:
Opening his show with "Satan's Little Lamb", Sam shows his playful side which eventually evolved into a hand full of short stories about life: his life, your life, people in general. After several comical life scenarios Sam broke into a tongue-in-cheek yet sweet version of "Everyone's Gone To The Moon".
Sam has the same issues we all have. "When I'm in LA I miss New York. When I'm in New York I miss LA and when I'm here visiting you folks in Manahawkin ....well, I mis behave!"
In the heart of Manahawkin, New Jersey minuets from the Jersey shore, this 812 seat state of the arts theater will play host as well as presenter to some pretty big events. Opening with Jim Brickman, right into an evening with Sam Harris then Linda Lavin, this lovely new venue will also present a South Jersey favorite, Neil Berg's " 100 Years of Broadway" "Forbidden Broadway" direct from New York and Lenape Regional Performing Arts Centers " The Music Man in Concert". And that's just the summer program.
A Sam Harris concert is not complete without Sam singing what has become his signature song "Over The Rainbow", which he cleverly sets up in a mock piano bar interacting with his brilliant musical director/pianist Todd Schroeder . Sam supposedly pinning over a lost love, buries himself in a glass of scotch as Mitch tinkles the ivories coaxing his bar buddy to join him in song. Sam brings this classic to its knees in a way Judy Garland would be proud of. We know her daughter is. "When Sam sings, I'm perfectly all right, except for the fact that I can't breathe!..." ~ Liza Minnelli.
Sam proudly shares his new found healthy lifestyle. "I quit smoking, drinking and I'm practically a monk" which he uses as a segue into the always popular ditty "Making Love Alone", a naughty number for some.
It's apparent that this shore crowd will be treated to a lot of pleasant surprises for a long time. STAC is supported by investors from the Ocean First Bank and Ocean First Foundation who generously approved a grant to this multi-school district's premier theater aptly named the Ocean First theater at STAC . STAC Executive Director, Rob Watson proudly states that the goals of the Center are a "commitment to enrich the cultural, vocational and other intellectual interests of students and the community". The school itself boasts an extensive dance & theater arts program.
Those who are not familiar with Sam Harris quickly discover that he excels in several capacities. "He sings, dances, arranges songs. He writes, directs musical shows. He is entertaining, humorous, exuberant and strikingly original. And his star is still on the rise" ~ Village View.
He easily captures the crowd with a whisper as he delivers two quiet and familiar numbers " Time After Time" and " I Can't Make You Love Me". Then he clinches the sale with a dynamic " Bridge Over Troubled Waters". "This is no white-bread voice. Close your eyes, listen and you might think it's Showtime at the Apollo" , ~Time Out.
This may not be surprising, as Sam confesses that he should have been born a "heavy set black woman" instead of a skinny white boy in Oklahoma" solidifying his love for Arethea Franklin's voice. Trust me, you would not know the difference with closed eyes.
Sam's heart is with the old time music makers and story tellers and his musical style is heavily laced with levels of great moments in entertaining.
This is never more evident than when he brings up the house light, ditches the mike and "becomes" the great Al Jolson delighting the crowd with " Mammy". "He could make Jesus walk through the door!," ~ Oprah.
By now Sam is cool, relaxed and comes to the end of his show and the end of the stage to sit, chat and reflect on the evening. He finishes up with a nostalgic, thought provoking " In My Life" and invites the audience to join him for this familiar Beatles number.
I think this final quote pretty well sums up an evening with Sam Harris. "Heart stopping! If there is a better singer/performer wrapped up in a more gorgeous package anywhere on earth, I have yet to see him! "~The Tolucan Times.
For more information on events at Ocean First Theater at STAC call: 609.978.5700 or visit www.njstac.com
Photo Credits: BroadwayWorld.com. Linda Lenzi, Stafford Twp. Arts Center