Friday, December 10, 2010

Norm Lewis at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater: Spotlight Performance & Venue

This post includes a review of the Norm Lewis concert and information about the Terrace Theater.

Barbara Cook's Spotlight: Norm Lewis

Norm Lewis possesses a unique and powerful voice and uses that voice to deliver a vocal performance that is effortless. Live at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater as part of its Spotlight series, Lewis commands attention with his baritone voice even if the songs are ones heard countless times before.

Lewis is currently performing the role of Javert in “Les Miserables” in London’s West End and recently performed the same role in the show’s 25th Anniversary Concert at the O2 arena. His recent Broadway credits include the revue “Sondheim on Sondheim” and surviving the shortcomings of the stage adaptation of “The Little Mermaid” where he portrayed King Triton.

Lewis as Javert in the Les Miserables
25th Anniversary Concert
The song set for the concert included many numbers from his CD recording “This Is the Life” with a few other numbers added for good measure. At one moment he began to sing to a few lines of “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” which immediately stirred applause. But it was only a segue way into one of the night’s highlights, his signature number “You Must Be Loved” from his breakthrough 1997 performance in the musical “Side Show". It’s a number that builds in vocal intensity and his version is unlikely to be matched.

Throughout the 75-minute concert, Lewis was always confident and affable but also pushed the edge of cheesiness with his hip-thrusting dance into the audience with Tom Jones’s “It’s Not Usual.” Even with unusual choices of “That’s Amore” and “That Old Black Magic, the audience ate it up. However there was likely a good portion of the audience with a mental checklist of show tunes they wanted to hear instead. One excellent number from his career “The Painter’s Song” from the 2002 Broadway musical “Amour” was absent.

Pianist Darius Frowner was the only musician on stage and participated in some fun repartee when there some confusion on the next number to perform. In songs from his CD, Lewis applied his silky voice to a brassy version of “Before the Parade Passes By” from "Hello Dolly!" to a slow-tempo remake of “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly” from "My Fair Lady".

He revealed he does have an all-time favorite song in the plaintive “We Live on Borrowed Time”. In other hands the song could become a retread of something performed at weddings. In the hands of Lewis, he delivers it tenderly with the perfect swell of emotion.  (One night only 12/10/10 7:30pm; all seats $45)

Terrace Theater: The Venue

As a Bicentennial gift from the people of Japan to the United States, the Terrace Theater was constructed on the Roof Terrace level of the Kennedy Center in the late 1970s. The 513 seat theatre hosts intimate performances of theater, chamber music or dance/ballet. 

A generous grade in the seats allows for perfect sight lines from all seats but spacing between rows lacks any comfortable leg and foot room. The entrance is at the rear of the theater and all rows are accessed via steps. An interior of deep colors and velvet seats gives the theater a luxurious feel. Gifts from Japan dot the theater's lobby. A concession stand is set up in the States Gallery and the Roof Terrace is open until 10pm to enjoy before, during an intermission of after a performance.

Roof Terrace just steps from the Terrace Theater


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