Norm Lewis with Seth Rudetsky – Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts

Theater Review – March 6, 2020


Virginia G. Piper Theater, Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts
Scottsdale, AZ

Beautiful voiced Broadway star Norm Lewis brought his stunning vocals for one night to the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts interspersed with hysterical backstage insights prompted by series host/pianist Seth Rudetsky.

Lewis’ concert was the final offering in this season’s series presenting Broadway stars singing highlights of their careers with catty banter.  Rudetsky said the series will return next season although no performers have been revealed.

Lewis sang many Broadway hit songs several of which had fetching new arrangements that made older standards sound new and fresh while allowing Lewis to use his magnificent vocal instrument to extraordinary effect.

The evening began with “The Sound of Music’s” “My Favorite Things” which Lewis sang jubilantly accompanied impressively by Rudetsky who used foot stomping throughout the evening to add a welcome percussive touch to the song arrangements.

Then the chatter began.  Lewis was never thrown by Rudetsky’s funny asides and comebacks.  The only non-musical theater song paid tribute to Lewis’ idol Johnny Mathis.  Lewis sang a delightful “Misty” which he performed once with Mathis.  After comments about men singing women’s songs, Lewis presented a jazzy arrangement of “My Fair Lady’s” “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly.”

Interestingly, Lewis starred in the recent Broadway “Once on This Island” revival.  Too bad Lewis wasn’t in the ASU Gammage tour of the show that played here this week.  Lewis belted out a breathtaking “Waiting for Life” from that musical.  A discussion of Lewis’ first Broadway show, “Side Show,” led to another stirring musical number but also prompted Lewis to make kind comments about that show’s two stars.

A Broadway actors’ trick came to light as Lewis related forgetting song lyrics during one of his Broadway runs.  He covered his memory loss by lip sinking while indicating that his body microphone had cut out.  This gimmick has become a standard ploy used by forgetful Broadway performers.

We heard tidbits about most of Lewis’ Broadway hits such as a “Porgy and Bess” revival with Audra McDonald, “Miss Saigon,” and “The Who’s Tommy” among others.  Lewis sang a moving “The Impossible Dream ” an amazing “Stars,” Javert’s “Les Miserables” showstopper, and two versions of “Porgy and Bess’” “I Got Plenty o ’Nuttin’’” until a stupendous “Music of the Night” from “The Phantom of the Opera” closed the show.  “Phantom” marked Lewis’ being the first Black star of that show on Broadway.

Two encores followed.  Lewis used the audience to sing the chorus portions of “The Music Man’s” “Trouble” and then a haunting “Before The Parade Passes By” from “Hello, Dolly.”

Norm Lewis and Seth Rudetsky presented a fascinatingly balanced musical evening that featured superb musical moments and insightful chatter about Broadway musical secrets.  For tickets to next season’s Seth Rudetsky Concert Series, contact the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts box office at 480-499-8587 or order tickets online at www.scottsdaleperforming once the new season is announced.

Grade: A