With 18 years of Broadway, Off-Broadway shows and numerous concerts, this is one actor that has captured the attention of many directors and producers. Just as importantly, he has won over the theater crowds as one of the most glorious Broadway voices of the last decade.
Norm, a native Floridian, basically possessed a hidden vocal treasure that wasn't discovered until a talent scout caught up with him in his mid 20's, in the middle of an advertising/ sales job. Today, among his long list of Broadway and regional credits is Miss Saigon, Side Show, Chicago, Ragtime, Dessa Rose, Baby, The Wild Party, Amour, Sweeney Todd, Company, The Fantasticks, as well as several Broadway and fund-raising concerts. His powerhouse vocals and acting have kept him in the limelight and continue to place him in solid, sought-after roles. His latest role is in one of Broadway's most popular shows to date, Les Miserables, where he will be starring as Javert in the return of Les Miserables, a limited tribute engagement to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Broadway run which previews on October 21st and opens in November 2006 at the Broadhurst Theater.
I caught up with Norm just returning from LA and on the brink of Les Miz rehearsals.
Pati Buehler: Are you excited about this?
Norm Lewis: Oh, very excited! It's always been one of my favorite shows--the music, the story, the songs, which I love. I'm just really glad they decided to bring me in for this, and at last.
PB: How did this Les Miz role come about?
NL: Well, it's been a while in coming. I auditioned for the show years ago. Interestingly enough, they were considering me for the role of Enjolras back in about '94. I held off on doing that because they were interested in me for Miss Saigon, which I ended up doing. Then other things came about, and they brought me in again to audition for Javert and after I sang, they were interested in me for Valjean. So I'm thinking, I can't do Valjean. I'm a baritone and Valjean, well that's pretty high for me, so I didn't want to mess up my career that way. They wanted to hire me to do a tour after Colm Wilkinson back in '99, but I was doing Captain Courageous and I just couldn't do it at the time. Honestly, I really just didn't see myself as Valjean. So after all this time, this year they called me to come in for Javert. So its been a long time coming.
PB: Who is Javert and how will you portray him?
NL: Well, to many people he is "ooooh the bad guy, the antagonist." But I think he's a man that believes in major principles. People view principles very differently. But Javert is very strict as to how he wants his life to go and how he sees others. I don't want people to necessarily like me, but I want them to understand what this character is all about while he's trying to find Valjean.
PB: Not unlike Sweeney Todd, right?
NL: Absolutely! It's funny, because you know me, in my personal life Norm is the goofy guy with a lot of friends and people kind of like me and blah, blah blah (laughing). So it's hard for some people to see me as mad or... whatever. When I told friends I was doing Sweeney Todd, they were saying "that's great, but I don't know. I don't see you as the mad, disturbed guy." But when they saw me as Sweeney, they were all saying "Oh My God you really scared me. (laughing) Dude, you really went there! You were mad! You showed us a different side." So it was nice to get that sort of feedback. My brother, to this day, says that was his favorite role that I did. So, I just want to bring truth to whatever character I portray. I want to show you why he is the way he is.