Norm Lewis: The Last of the Matinee Idols

Classical/Pops Editorial Team Artist Focus

norm-lewisThe first thing one notices in Norm Lewis’ presence is his quiet self-assurance and ambivalence toward the commotion building around him. He looks his guest straight in the eyes, seeming to focus on each word. What he doesn’t notice, or at least doesn’t acknowledge, is the swooning women around him, whispering amongst themselves or nodding in his direction. Something wonderful is happening: Norm is reaching the pinnacle of his profession, but one wonders if he will let himself believe it. Perhaps, like his great friend Audra McDonald, he will just keep heading higher and higher.

Name a quadruple threat Broadway leading man—besides Norm—who brings the sophistication and pedigree to lead an iconic musical, sings the Great American Songbook, guest stars in a top-rated television political thriller (Scandal), and is trusted to serenade the Pope with an arrangement of the sacred “Ave Maria”—in Latin, no less. Hugh Jackman, who also began his career in musical theater, may spring to mind, but these two exist in a league of their own. Each has a sonorous voice, soaring acting talent, amazing spirit, and swoon-inducing matinee-idol handsomeness, evoking a powerful presence on stage and screen possibly not seen since the era of Cary Grant and Clark Gable.

Most recently, the show biz buzz has been about Norm Lewis’ stellar debut as the first African American to take on the lead role in The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, but this historic feat has actually overshadowed his deep and diverse resume.

With a long, successful career as an actor and baritone singer, Norm has forged his imprint on the Great White Way in productions including Phantom, The Little Mermaid, Chicago, Les Misérables, and Dreamgirls, as well as his Tony-nominated performance in Porgy & Bess. In addition to his countless stage productions, Norm has many film, television, and commercial credits to his name. He recently expanded his impact in the theater world by conceiving and executive-producing the Black Stars of the Great White Way, the all-male tribute honoring jazz legends of American theater that played to a sold-out audience at Carnegie Hall. Add the fact that Mr. Lewis is supportive of many charitable organizations from BroadwayCares Equity to The Innocence Project, and one begins to understand the depths of his character. Building on a plethora of recordings and concert stage performances, Norm has appeared in his own PBS specials and at many prestigious concert halls. With a highly anticipated performance at the upcoming Classical/Pops Festival Barbados December 11–12, his star will surely continue to illuminate new audiences around the world.