'Tis the season for holiday concerts and Tony nominee Norm Lewis is gearing up to prove once again why he's one of Broadway's most sought-after vocalists. For five performances, December 20-24, Lewis will premiere a new holiday show, Norm Lewis Wishes You a Swingin' Christmas, at Feinstein's/54 Below. Richard Jay-Alexander, who gave Lewis his first-ever leading role (in Miss Saigon), helms the show, which will feature Lewis singin' some swingin' tunes and a host of special guests.
In addition to his concert, Lewis is giving us another gift later this season, when he will jump headfirst into the New York City Center Encores! production of Cabin in the Sky, which will reunite him with his Dessa Rose and Ragtime costar (and friend) LaChanze. Lewis filled TheaterMania in on his busy few months, and gave us a preview of his velvety vocals.
1. As a lauded concert performer, what's taken you so long to do a Feinstein's/54 Below show?
There was an opportunity that was presented to me earlier this year, but because of scheduling, I just couldn't do it. But then, Richard Jay-Alexander, my director, and I were talking about how fun it would be to do a holiday show and that sparked an idea. I wanted to make sure that [playing] 54 Below was going to be at a special time. I don't want it to be a show-show. I've always had that Rat Pack mentality. Their philosophy was "If we're having fun on stage, then you'll have fun." That's where I wanted to go with this.
2. What should we expect from Norm Lewis Wishes You a Swingin' Christmas?
We're just going to have fun. Each night, there will be different guests, a very eclectic group of people from the Broadway world and from the classical world. We've got Christmas songs that are going to be traditional, but they'll have a little twist to them. I want people to come there not to see a show but to be part of an experience. If they want to participate, that's fine. If they want to sit back and listen to it, that's fine too.
3. Do you have a favorite when it comes to Christmas music?
My very favorite, there are two of them: "The Christmas Song," Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, and "O Holy Night." Those two are my go-to. I gravitate to the people from the fifties and sixties, Johnny Mathis and Nat King Cole. The original Supremes [and] their Christmas album. We had all of those playing around the house [growing up].
4. What's on your horizon for the New Year?
I shot an episode of Chicago Med with S. Epatha Merkerson. I'm going to be working with Renée Fleming in May for a concert series. And Cabin in the Sky at Encores!
5. What's the most exciting part about Cabin in the Sky?
I'm very excited about that, working with LaChanze again, and Chuck Cooper, and Carly Hughes, and Ruben Santiago-Hudson. We've been friends for a long time and we've been trying to work together on a few projects, either as actors or [Ruben] directing. He called me up and said, "Would you mind doing this?" And I was like, "Not at all. To work with you would be amazing."
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