This Christmas cabaret is one of the more conventional ones I’ve seen this year – and that’s entirely a good thing. In the spirit of his own favorite singer, Johnny Mathis, Norm Lewis’s show leans into holiday fun and warmth. It’s not an entirely shallow show – there are dark shadows here and there – but the emphasis is on Christmas’s pleasures and joys.
And it’s not strictly a Christmas show. He opens with a frisky “My Favorite Things” – so frisky in fact that he slightly lost track of the lyrics “First night people, first night!” he said with a big ingratiating grin. Lewis assays “Fever”, which Peggy Lee made famous, but he gives it back some of the r&b flavor of its original singer Little Willie John.
Norm was nominated for a Tony a few season back for his performance as Porgy in Porgy & Bess – garnered in no small part for his glowing performance of the song “I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin’”. His version is like the sun coming out after a grimly cloudy day; he repeats it here, and it has lost none of its luster.
In tribute to Mathis, he does one of Johnny’s signature songs “Misty”. Lewis’s rich baritone is similar to Mathis’s but more powerful, and he takes the song to new heights. Indeed he favors the audience with powerful belting several times throughout the evening in showcases like “Mary, Did You Know”, “The Impossible Dream” and “Music of the Night”. Recommended.
For tickets, click here.
To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.