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Next to Norm

Norm Lewis discusses his role in London's Les Miserables and performing in Lincoln Center's American Songbook series. logo
Norm Lewis
(© Tristan Fuge)
New Yorkers haven't seen much of Broadway favorite Norm Lewis since the closing of Sondheim on Sondheim last summer, and with good reason -- he's been playing Javert in the new London production of Les Miserables, a gig that he recently extended until June. However, the multi-talented actor is making a brief homecoming this month to appear with Tony Award winner Victoria Clark in Lincoln Center's American Songbook evening, Fascinatin' Rhythms: Rob Fisher Celebrates the Gershwins on Wednesday, January 26. TheaterMania recently spoke with Lewis about these projects.

THEATERMANIA: How are you fitting in American Songbook with your Les Miserables schedule?
NORM LEWIS: Rob Fisher called me to do this a while ago, and when he says jump, you say how high. So I made my schedule work. Plus, I've never performed at Rose Hall and I've always wanted to. I did a concert in Washington D.C. in December, so while I was back east, we picked out the music, did the arrangements, and did some rehearsing. And we've kept in touch through email -- thank god for the Internet! And now I'll come back to New York a few days before the show and we'll rehearse again. I am so excited to be doing this!

TM: Will the concert be Gershwin's greatest hits?
NL: It started out as a lot of Porgy & Bess and we realized we needed to make it less Porgy & Bess. We'll be doing some obscure stuff -- things I hadn't heard before -- but we're definitely throwing in a lot of Gershwin songs people do know. There will be some duets and some solos, and even a couple of instrumentals. It will be a really nice evening.

TM: Have you and Victoria Clark ever worked together before?
NL: The only time Vicki and I worked together was on a reading of Baby at the Roundabout. We've been threatening to work together for years. I'd love to do a romantic comedy with her. She is so amazing, and I'm honored just to be on the same stage as her.

Norm Lewis in Les Miserables
(© Catherine Ashmore)
TM: How different is your Javert in London than it was in the recent Broadway revival?
NL: I liked what I did in New York, and they liked what I did. Over here, though, they gave me some new things to think about as Javert. We went back to the book and I saw things like he was described as having wolf-like features and being a zealot, and I've tried to incorporate those things into the character. The only major thing that is different is that I'm trying to do a British accent, which really means I don't hit my "r"s as hard. And honestly, my British accent sucks. But I like that, since I don't want to come back with this perfect accent and have my friends say, "Oh, so did you go all Madonna on us?"

TM: You were part of the special 25th Anniversary Les Miserables concert at the O2. What was that experience like?
NL: I can't even put it into words. You're in this big arena with 16,000 people at each show, and you look out at this endless sea of people. It felt like being part of a rock concert. And the cast was just amazing, I was so proud of Alfie Boe, who was able to transfer from the opera world to do this, and some really neat people from all around the world even came just to be in the chorus. And when the original company of the show came out, there was not a dry eye in the house.

TM: It was also filmed for international distribution. Have you seen the film?
NL: They did a special screening of the film for the cast, so yes, I saw my big nose. We were supposed to do the show in full costume, wig, and makeup, but then they decided to take the wig and makeup off during dress rehearsal. It was just too much and I understand it. But it was filmed in HD, so people are going to see I had a pimple that day for the rest of my life.

TM: Do you have plans for life after Les Miz?
NL: I think I'm going to take the summer off to travel -- I've been trying to see a lot of nearby cities here on my days off. But when I come back to New York in the fall, I'd really like to do some cabaret and concert work. In fact, I think I'll call Joe's Pub right now.

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