Get to Know Broadway Star Norm Lewis

Norm Lewis. Photo by Peter Hurley

Tony nominee Norm Lewis takes the stage in Merchant Hall on September 18, and "promises that his Virginia concert will feature what he describes as 'Norm’s greatest hits,' major songs from the musicals he has starred in over the years. But Lewis also promises 'a deep dive into the American songbook' and possibly a few songs inspired by his recent screen roles, including his first major motion picture, Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods." (DC Metro Theater Arts) Lewis, “just about everything a leading man with a mighty voice should be” (The New York Times), has anchored iconic productions, including his history-making turn as the first African American Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera; Porgy in The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess; Javert in Les Misérables; Billy Flynn in Chicago; and Agwe in Once On This Island.

A native Floridian, Lewis grew-up singing in church. In college, he majored in business and worked post-college at The Orlando Sentinel singing in local contests for fun. His rich, baritone voice caught the attention of a contest judge who offered him a job singing on a cruise ship. Lewis decided to take a chance and never looked back, following his star all the way to the Big Apple where he worked on and off-Broadway for years. Often asked what his dream role would be – Lewis always cited the title role in The Phantom of the Opera. The last time he spoke that wish aloud was at a panel discussion in Washington, D.C. where, unbeknownst to him, the show’s music director was in attendance and upon hearing of Lewis’ wish, arranged an audition for him. Remembering the moment of the audition, Lewis later told The New York Times:

“I stood on the Majestic stage and just took a deep breath, and I felt the souls of people who have passed — Paul Robeson, William Warfield — but also people who are still alive, like André De Shields and Larry Marshall and Ben Vereen, and especially Robert Guillaume, who played this role, saying: ‘Go for it — show these people what you got. That’s all you can give them.’ And I kind of relaxed after that.” (Note: Guillaume died in 2017).

Lewis recently starred in the critically acclaimed television drama Da 5 Bloods, in the groundbreaking FX series, Pose, and in ABC’s newest series Women of The Movement. He’s also known for his roles in Scandal, Dr. Death, Mrs. America, and more. He’s a proud founding member of Black Theatre United, an organization which stands together to help support Black talent and Black lives of all backgrounds in theatre and communities across the country.

Don’t miss this trailblazing Broadway legend in An Evening with Norm Lewis (9/18), live at the Hylton Center.