By Tom Alvarez, Indianapolis Performing Arts Examiner
January 14, 2011
It was going to take more than a bad cold to keep Sam Harris down. Reinforcing that “the show must go on,” and like the trouper he is, Harris brought down the house during Broadway, Ballads & Blues, the 2012 season opener, at the Cabaret at the Columbia Club, Friday night. The show repeats Saturday at 8:00 p.m.
Ingesting tea, honey, apple juice and a throat spray that were placed on top of the grand piano and which he used frequently throughout his show, he was not only able to sing (against his doctor’s orders he told the audience) – he sang like a man possessed.
Harris, who was accompanied by his long time music director and pianist, Todd Schroeder, dazzled the audience with a performance that showed off his tremendous vocals and his considerable comic talent as well. Demonstrating both an extraordinary vocal and emotional range, Harris was deeply moving as he sang ballads such as Everyone’s Gone to the Moon, I Honestly Love You and In My Life.
After talking about his boyhood in Oklahoma during which he said, “other boys were playing ball, while I was singing Stormy Weather,” Harris launched into a stunning interpretation of the Harold Arlen classic that was beyond passionate in its delivery.
Known for his biting social and political commentary, Harris did not disappoint in his Cabaret debut. Spontaneous and unfiltered, he delighted the packed room with hilarious patter, particularly when he read from a list he drew up of both good and bad things that happened in 2011.
The bad things included everything from the death of Osama Bin Laden to Casey Anthony to Kim Kardashian’s 72-day wedding. They also included various surgeries (hip, knee and disc) that he endured last year to repair injuries he says were sustained while performing.
Sharing that his close friend Liza Minnelli also has experienced her share of show business-related injuries, Harris sang a parody of Razzle Dazzle (Chicago) which he wrote. Making fun of their “bionic parts,” the two sang the song together recently in a show called Schmooli and Minnooli, which they performed in New York and are further developing.
Hoping for a better new year to come, Harris, who counts himself as a positive thinker, later sang a sweetly tender version of Cockeyed Optimist.
Harris’ upcoming year will include a Broadway bound musical about Al Jolson, an entertainer he admires and whose essence he hopes to capture on stage. Singing Jolson’s signature song, Swanee, Harris proved that he has what it takes to do justice to an icon celebrated for his vibrant stage presence.
Singing Over the Rainbow, Harris closed his show with the song (a version so totally his own) that made him famous as the grand champion of the television show, Star Search, in 1984.
After seeing Harris perform live, it’s easy to understand why he has enjoyed longevity as a musical theatre performer, pop singer, songwriter, recording artist and television, stage and film actor, since his discovery. Rarely does one experience a performer so completely committed to his audience, so in the moment and so thoroughly original.
For tickets and information about Broadway, Ballads & Blues, featuring Sam Harris, which continues Saturday at 8:00 p.m., call the Cabaret at the Columbia box office at (317) 275-1169 or visit www.thecabaret.org.
Click here to read the full review.