Tony Award® nominee and platinum recording artist Sam Harris returned after a three year hiatus to a sold out room at Feinstein’s/ 54 Below. Most remembered as the winner of Ed McMahon’s “Star Search”, Harris’s “Over the Rainbow,” has been considered one of the best performances and after last night it is easy to see why.
Harris has performed at Carnegie Hall, with The Boston Pops and for the President. On Broadway, he starred in Cy Coleman’s The Life and received a Tony nomination. He followed that up with roles in The Producers, the revival of Grease and several other productions. Sam has nine studio CDs to his credit and is also a composer, writer for television and the stage, and author of HAM: Slices of a Life (Simon & Schuster) which became the basis of the one-man musical HAM: A Musical Memoir, winning rave reviews, several prestigious Ovation Awards, and then filmed at The Pasadena Playhouse. The film is currently receiving accolades on the festival circuit.
Jerry Hermann’s “We Need a Little Christmas” from Mame started off the evening. In a world saddened by the political climate, Sam Harris sings us cheer and his vocals are as joyful as he is.
“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” by U2 and “I’m Still Here” from Stephen Sondheim’s Follies told where has is in his life and where he has been. It was a moment that was so telling and honest.
With his smooth stylings, Harris brings a simplicity to the lyric that cuts to the bone. This was demonstrated in Brenda Russell’s “Get Here”, Carly Simon and Mike Mainieri’s “Jesse”, the gorgeous “I Love You More” by Pamela Phillips Oland, James Patrick Dunne and “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin.
Something interesting happened during this set, there was a man who thought his voice and conversation was more important than Mr. Harris performing. What was so amazing, was collectively the whole room shushed him. You would thought he would have been so embarrassed that would have silenced him. Unfortunately, no, but Mr. Harris was generous in spirit.
Breaking up the ballad section, was a bucket list of Mr. Harris…. tap dancing which he pulled off after 14 days of lessons with flare thanks to Robbi Morgan Walberg who joined him on stage.
Cyndi Lauper and Rob Hyman “Time After Time” gave way to the jazzy “The Devil is a Woman” by Smith Jacob Aaron and the bluesy “Santa’s Blues” by B.K Turner, into the driven and moving “Don’t Rain On My Parade” from Funny Girl by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill. Mr. Harris proved that any style he took on, he ingratiated into his heart, soul and vocals to create a series of magical moments in song. His pianist and musical director was the fabulous James Sampliner, who lent his voice to harmony, as well as played a mean piano. What was also a credit to Mr. Sampliner is that Mr. Harris and he only had a limited rehearsal time, yet they were so in sync.
Not disappointing the audience Harris recreated his Tony nominated performance with “Use What You’ve Got” from Cy Coleman and Ira Gasman’s The Life.
A slowed down version of Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers “Cockeyed Optimist” from South Pacific gave way to a much appreciated “Over The Rainbow”. In all Mr. Harris earned 4 standing ovations during the night.
“(I’m Spending) Hanukkah in Santa Monica”, gave the Jewish patron’s a kick, while his encore of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” made the season bright.
You won’t see that video today, it is on my countdown for the 5 Christmas songs leading up to Christmas. Unfortunately the obnoxious patron who thought it was ok to talk loudly and comment decided this was another time to interrupt.
You can catch Sam Harris’s marvelous show at Feinstein’s/ 54 Below tonight at 7pm. This is a must for any music lover and though I have not published it, Mr. Harris has definitely made my Top 10 Cabaret performances this year.