Review: Norm Lewis Brings a Touch of Broadway to 54 Below

The titan of theater sings tunes of Broadway now through June 13th

By: Jun. 07, 2024
Review: Norm Lewis Brings a Touch of Broadway to 54 Below
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The tour de force that is the one and only Norm Lewis brought his own brand of charisma, ebullience and powerful vocals to Norm Lewis: Summertime (Special Tony Edition) on June 6, 2024. The Tony, Grammy and Emmy nominee is truly a one-man band of vocal musical theater talent who has trod on many of Broadway's famous stages over the years. Tonight, he lovingly brought songs from some of his famous performances as well as those he found inspiring to the standing room only audience at 54 Below. 

Dashingly attired in a white dinner jacket with sequined patterns, black tuxedo trousers and black bow tie, Lewis proceeded to tell the crowd that this was more a party than a show, and so the interactive performance was just that. With his signature belting baritone voice, Lewis proceeded to hit the back of the wall with his rendition of the famed “Don’t Rain On My Parade” from Funny Girl.  The hits and stories behind them kept coming, from Lewis’s personal inspirational journey in “Corner of the Sky” from Pippin, through his loss of a role in the Broadway hit, Hamilton (“Right Hand Man / One Last Time”), to his interactive version of the intense musical masterpiece “Trouble” from The Music Man (yes, the audience joined in the chorus, for the first but not last time that evening.)

When you thought you had seen it all, Norm Lewis brought his special guest onstage, the renowned Melba Moore, who was clad in an all-white ensemble of white suit layered over a sequined top, accented by sparkling long earrings. Together, Melba Moore and Norm Lewis took theater patrons on a time-traveling trip back to the late 1960’s with their magical version of the psychedelic smash hit, “Aquarius / Let the Sunshine In” from Hair.  Moore, who had joined the 1967 original cast of the Broadway show Hair as Dionne, eventually replaced Diane Keaton in the role of Sheila.  Moore thus explained that she was the first African American actor to ever replace a white actor in a role on Broadway.  This reviewer, along with the rest of the crowd, swayed and crooned the words of the well-known ballad along with the two titans of musical theater as they brought those crazy, hazy days of hippies and long hair back, if for only a few minutes, to reality.  Next Moore continued to show she still had her Broadway chops after all these years with a memorable performance of “I Got Love” from her role in Purlie. Wow!

Now dapper in a navy blue sequin dinner jacket tuxedo outfit, Norm Lewis jumped back into the spotlight as he revisited his role as the sneaky Billy Flynn in Chicago, with “Razzle Dazzle”.  Mentioning that one of his most admired theatrical role models, Jerry Orbach, had originated the role, he proceeded to pay homage to the actor with his gorgeously powerful version of Orbach’s famed tune “Try to Remember” from The Fantasticks.  Other standout performances included a campy and hysterical “Poor Unfortunate Souls” from The Little Mermaid, the eerie and sinister “My Friends” from Sweeney Todd, which Lewis accessorized with an aptly frightening glinting Victorian razor, and of course his signature hauntingly seductive rendition of “The Music Of The Night” from The Phantom of the Opera, which saw Lewis as the first African American actor to portray the role on Broadway.

What a night for Broadway musical enthusiasts!  The talent, the phenomenal quality of their voices, and of course those songs!  This reviewer left the theater this night with the phenomenal music still humming in my head.  The final standing ovation continued on for quite a while for the amazing Norm Lewis! Bravo, bravo Norm Lewis I say!

Norm Lewis: Summertime (Special Tony Edition) featured the incomparable Norm Lewis, the iconic Broadway actress Melba Moore, Musical Director Joseph Joubert, Director Richard Jay-Alexander, Perry Cavari (Drums), and Dylan Shamat (Bass).  The show continues its run on June 7, 8, 10, 11 and 12, 2024 at 54 Below. (Tickets are available here.)

The show will feature different guests each night. Pastor Bobby Lewis and Stephen Schwartz (composer and lyricist of Pippin, Wicked and many more shows) will appear on June 7 only. Tony Award winner and 2x Grammy winner Marc Shaiman (Hairspray, Smash) will appear on June 8 only. Tony Award winner Alice Ripley (Next to Normal) will appear on June 10 only. Tony Award nominee Will Swenson and Seth Rudetsky on June 11 only. Tony Award winner and Grammy nominee Brian Stokes Mitchell and Nova Payton will appear on June 12 only. Kimberly Akimbo’s Olivia Hardy will appear on June 13 only

Find great shows to see on the 54 Below website here


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