Norm Lewis: Nutcracker Cool

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Norm Lewis

Nutcracker Cool

Feinstein’s/54 Below, NYC, December 17, 2019

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg for Cabaret Scenes

Norm Lewis

With a jubilant “Hey, I’m back!,” the electric Norm Lewis took the stage for his fourth annual holiday show. It was a program full of traditional melodies, unexpected offerings, and surprise presents for some members of the audience (both Christmas and Hanukkah themed), as well as a very special guest star.

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Lewis ranged from total camp—he made his entrance with his impressive heft clad in a tutu to “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy”—to solemn majesty—a shimmering “O, Holy Night.”

The classic “Little Drummer Boy” was given a unique arrangement featuring the fine work of drummer Perry Cavari (other musicians involved were music director/pianist Joseph Joubert and bassist George Farmer). “The Gift of Love” (Teese Gohl/Elliot Kenndy/Bryan Adams) gave a more contemporary holiday sound to the program.

He also paid tribute to his Broadway background with the enchanting waltz, “Toyland,” and the exuberant “Waiting for Life” from Once on This Island, which he appeared in on several occasions. “Home,” from The Wiz, was also given a powerful rendition.

Lewis had a different guest star at each show. On opening night, it was his cousin, Cortney Johnson.

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Once she sang, no one could accuse him of nepotism. The diva is an opera singer making her cabaret debut. First joining Lewis for a thrilling duet of “Bess, You Is My Woman Now,” and then going solo on “Silent Night,” the soprano evoked memories of a young Leontyne Price as she thrilled the audience.

Under the direction of Richard Jay-Alexander, this program was a very special holiday present to all who attended.

Bart Greenberg

Bart Greenberg first discovered cabaret a few weeks after arriving in New York City by seeing Julie Wilson and William Roy performing Stephen Sondheim and Cole Porter outdoors at Rockefeller Center. It was instant love for both Ms. Wilson and the art form. Some years later, he was given the opportunity to create his own series of cabaret shows while working at Tower Records. "Any Wednesday" was born, a weekly half-hour performance by a singer promoting a new CD release. Ann Hampton Callaway launched the series. When Tower shut down, Bart was lucky to move the program across the street to Barnes & Noble, where it thrived under the generous support of the company. The series received both The MAC Board of Directors Award and The Bistro Award. Some of the performers who took part in "Any Wednesday" include Barbara Fasano and Eric Comstock, Tony Desare, Andrea Marcovicci, Carole Bufford, the Karens, Akers, Mason and Oberlin, and Julie Wilson. Privately, Greenberg is happily married to writer/photographer Mark Wallis, who as a performance artist in his native England gathered a major following as "I Am Cereal Killer."