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Interview: Entertainment Legend Sam Harris Brings His One-Man Show Home to Nashville This Saturday Night at TPAC

New Season of CABARET ON STAGE from Studio Tenn & TPAC Kicks Off

Interview: Entertainment Legend Sam Harris Brings His One-Man Show Home to Nashville This Saturday Night at TPAC Long before Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken became best mates, prior to Kelly meeting Justin (and making that awful movie) and American Idol even becoming a concept - almost 40 years ago, believe it or not, in 1983 - the most buzzed about talent competition on television was Star Search, a syndicated weekly series in which singers, dancers, stand-up comedians, actors and "spokesmodels" (that word wasn't even part of the American vernacular until the show made its debut) vied for the right to be declared the very best of the best in their field.

There is perhaps no one better known for his stint on Star Search than the multi-talented, Tony Award-nominated star of stage, screen and television: Sam Harris. The very mention of his name can elicit rapturous recollections by his loyal and longtime fans of his performances on Star Search (where he won top honors for 13 weeks in a row during its first season), an era in which his rendition of "Over the Rainbow" became the stuff of entertainment legend.

Now, thanks to the successful and continuing partnership of Studio Tenn and the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, Sam Harris returns to Nashville this Saturday night for an evening of Cabaret On Stage, the kick-off of the second season of such offerings on the stage of TPAC's Andrew Jackson Hall.

For Harris, performing in Nashville is a homecoming of sorts - for it was in Music City that he moved to at the age of 15 to take the stages of Opryland USA, perhaps the best-known musical theme park in the world and a fertile breeding ground for some of the most successful stars in the business. At that tender age, his parents allowed Sam to drop out of school to pursue his dream of becoming a star (he'd been performing since he was three years old, after all) and putting his ample talents on display during performances of I Hear America Singing at Opryland USA.

His experience at Opryland prepared him for everything that was to come in his career - Star Search, Broadway, recording, movies, one-man shows, you name it he's done it - and he still calls the friends he made during his Opryland days his "family."

"I had the best time at Opryland," he remembers. "And I learned so much during my time there."

And while he admits that his parents made the tough decision to let hm come to Nashville on his own in order to pursue his dreams, he said they were accustomed to having a precociously talented son who clearly knew what he wanted to achieve in life.

"They knew I had to do it," he suggests. "But I look at my 14-year-old son now, who can't even boil an egg and I think, 'what the hell were my parents thinking?'"

That realization, however, sparks another memory: "When I was seven - my father was a high school band director and my whole family was going on a band trip. We'd never been on vacation before, so this was a really big deal. But, I was taking a drama class in Tulsa, which was the closest big city to my small hometown, and we had a show coming up during that very same week.

"Yep, the performance date of my 15-minute play Stone Soup was on a conflict day with this bad trip, but my parents had the wisdom to ask me what I wanted to do? I picked the play, of course, so my grandmother came to stay with me while the rest of the family went on the band trip!"

For seven-year-old Sam, the answer came as easily as it would come for today-years-old Harris: "I loved performing so much," he says. "I'm so blessed. I first began showing an interest at two- or three-years-old - I actually sang 'The Star-Spangled Banner' at three - so I definitely had the bug early and by the time I was a couple of years older, I was making up my own stories and putting on shows in the living room."

What with his lifelong penchant for entertaining audiences, what can be expected of Saturday night's performance at Cabaret On Stage? One thing is for certain: Sam Harris will be at his best.

"This is one of my favorite shows that I have done in years and years," he promises, during a wide-ranging telephone interview from his home in California. "It's pretty eclectic: Broadway, pop, monologues - some really beautiful and subtle things, along with some big showstoppers. It truly runs a gamut of music."

The beauty of his new show, in which he'll be joined by music director John McDaniel, derives from the shared experience of returning to performance space after the long and arduous sojourn caused by the global Covid-19 pandemic.

"Since we've all been allowed to leave our houses again, as we've been able to open up again, there's been this amazing feeling and a healing as people have been putting themselves in a room with one another and having a common experience," Harris says. "To be together, to laugh and to cry together again is so thrilling and joyous and palpable. It's like people have gone nuts and are so happy to have a common purpose again - to be entertained."

"I always have the greatest time when I am onstage," he maintains. "But there's just something more special about it now. When I go about creating a show, it's a carefully crafted evening of theater and when you're doing it in a small venue you can't fake it. It really becomes a personal, intimate experience."

Interview: Entertainment Legend Sam Harris Brings His One-Man Show Home to Nashville This Saturday Night at TPAC About Sam Harris

Sam Harris' diversified career has run the gamut from singer and songwriter to actor on Broadway, film and television, to writer, director, producer and author. After pulling a weekly audience of more than 25 million viewers on Star Search in its premier season, Sam and his powerhouse pop, gospel and theater influenced vocals have never looked back. Jimmy Fallon called his performance of "Over the of the greatest performances ever on television. EVER!"

Sam is a multi-platinum recording artist with 9 studio CDs to his credit. Rolling Stone Magazine listed him as one of the "Top Greatest 100 Vocalists of all Time."

On Broadway, Sam received a Tony, Outer Critic's Circle and Drama Desk nominations for his work in Cy Coleman's The Life, a Drama League Award and Drama Desk nomination for his role in Tommy Tune's Grease, and appeared in Mel Brooks' The Producers, as well as Jesus Christ Superstar, Cabaret, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Hair, Pippin and The Jazz Singer. His autobiographical show HAM: A Musical Memoir (directed by Billy Porter) played off-Broadway and in Los Angeles, winning LA's prestigious Ovation Award for Best Musical, as well as Best Actor, and Best Musical Direction for his long-time musical director, Todd Schroeder. HAM was filmed for television and can be seen on all prominent streaming channels. Time Magazine called it "one of the most powerful, moving, and relevant live show films of the year."

Sam has toured extensively in concert and has played to sold-out audiences everywhere from Carnegie Hall to the Boston Pops. He performed with Cyndi Lauper on her True Colors tour. He and Liza Minnelli performed their duo-show Schmoolie and Minnooli in a limited sold-out run in New York. Sam has appeared at The White House, on numerous television specials and live productions, and has been a guest artist on virtually every talk show, his favorite in an historic time, when he performed a stirring "You'll Never Walk Alone" on The Oprah Winfrey Show in the week following September 11, 2001. Sam was a regular on the CBS sitcom, The Class, winning the People's Choice Award, and has guest starred on numerous series. He hosted his own segment on Extra TV show called "Six Degrees of Sam."

Behind the scenes, Sam co-wrote the TBS sitcom, Down to Earth, co-produced and directed the television special Love Letter to New York, supervised and directed segments of Michael Jackson's 30th Year Anniversary at Madison Square Garden, and co-wrote Liza's At The Palace for Liza Minnelli, which won the Tony Award. He created and directed the concert event, New York's Finest - Broadway's Leading Men, and has directed numerous multi-star events featuring Broadway and recording luminaries.

Sam wrote the best-selling book HAM: Slices of a Life, which was the basis for the hit show. His new novel, which is literary fiction this time, is titled The Substance of All Things, has garnered extraordinary reviews from all prominent book publications and is in development for a limited series.

Interview: Entertainment Legend Sam Harris Brings His One-Man Show Home to Nashville This Saturday Night at TPAC

About Cabaret On Stage

Studio Tenn Theatre Company and Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC) present the return of their popular Cabaret On Stage series, featuring four intimate evenings on TPAC's Jackson Hall stage with legendary performers, including Emmy and Tony Award-winning actress and singer Kristin Chenoweth (Schmigadoon!, Wicked); Emmy Award-winning actress and recording artist Liz Callaway (Merrily We Roll Along, Baby); with Broadway, television, and film actor Jason Graae (Falsettos, Wicked); award-winning actor and multi-platinum recording artist Sam Harris (The Life, The Producers); and four-time Tony nominee Judy Kuhn (Fiddler on the Roof, Les Misérables) who sang the title role in Disney's Pocahontas.

Tickets are available at, by phone at (615) 782-4040 and in person at the TPAC Box Office, 505 Deaderick St., in downtown Nashville.

Harris and Kuhn will be joined by John McDaniel, a Grammy and Emmy Award-winning music director, composer, director, arranger and producer who will serve as their musical director and emcee. Callaway and Graae will be joined by pianist Alex Rybeck, an award-winning composer, arranger and musical director known for his work on Broadway (Damn Yankees, Merrily We Roll Along), in concerts, cabarets and recordings. Chenoweth will be joined by musical director Mary-Mitchell Campbell, a conductor, composer, and music director for many Broadway shows (Mean Girls, The Prom).

Performance Schedule

July 2, 2022 - An Intimate Evening with Sam Harris, featuring John McDaniel as Emcee and Musical Director

August 20, 2022 - An Intimate Evening with Liz Callaway and Jason Graae, featuring Alex Rybeck

September 10, 2022 - An Intimate Evening with Kristin Chenoweth, featuring Mary-Mitchell Campbell

October 15, 2022 - An Intimate Evening with Judy Kuhn with John McDaniel

From This Author - Jeffrey Ellis

Jeffrey Ellis is a Nashville-based writer, editor and critic, who's been covering the performing arts in Tennessee for more than 35 years. In 1989, Ellis and his partner launched... (read more about this author)

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