Norm Lewis Lookback

Last week I had the opportunity to see Norm Lewis perform at Kodak Hall, and he was pretty fantastic. That guy can sing! You were probably expecting that, though, if you know anything about Norm Lewis. He’s basically a Broadway superstar- he’s been in practically any show that comes to mind when you think of Broadway classics. Les Mis? Yup. Phantom of the Opera? Yup. Porgy and Bess? Yup. He gets around!

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Ready for an evening of incredible music!

His show at Eastman included highlights from many of the musicals he’s been in. My personal favorites were the huge show stopping numbers like “Music of the Night” from Phantom and “Bring Him Home” from Les Mis. His rendition of “Bring Him Home” was particularly moving, as he prefaced it with a story about a fellow cast member who died young in an accident. I may have been a little misty-eyed by the end of that one, if I’m being honest. Norm’s voice filled up the whole theatre; it was clear that every audience member was listening raptly.

Norm was a very personable performer. He loved interacting with the audience and included lengthy anecdotes between each song. At the beginning of the night, he mentioned reading the local paper and seeing we “had a lot going on,” then referenced catching himself on Scandal while watching TV in his hotel room. This was the start of a long night of humblebrags. We heard all about his friendship with Audra McDonald, that time he went to a house party at the White House, and how he got to meet Barack Obama. I suppose humblebrags are warranted when you’re as talented and experienced in show business as Norm Lewis is.

Things did get a little weird, though, when he performed a Marvin Gaye number and interspersed his passionate singing with yells of “ISIS!” and “Black Lives Matter!” My boyfriend and I looked at each other in total shock and confusion. Never have I ever been to a concert at Eastman where I’ve heard a musician scream “ISIS” in the middle of a performance! I totally get artists standing up for what they believe in during turbulent political times. The song was called “What’s Going On,” and while it is super important to discuss what’s going on, especially in 2017, this seemed like a bizarre, jarring, and superficial way to approach the topic. I wanted to yell back to him, “Dude! You’re just saying names and phrases!” Yelling nouns is not a particularly effective way of engaging in political discourse.

Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable evening and I’m glad we got to see this talented man bring down the house! Just thinking back on the night, I’m getting some serious feels thinking about his rendition of “Bring Him Home.”

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World-class music right here!

Now, you may recall that the Eastman Presents concert series was on my list of 7 Things I’m Psyched About in 2017. There are three shows remaining in the series, and up next is Garrison Keillor. Apparently I’m out of the loop on the whole Garrison Keillor thing; I’ve heard he’s pretty amazing,  and I’m excited to see him when he comes to town on February 17th!

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Garrison Keillor is coming to ROC! Photo via Eastman Theatre.

Even more exciting for YOU, is that I’m doing another ticket giveaway! Love the idea of seeing Garrison Keillor IRL? Comment below telling me why you want to see him. Winner receives a pair of tickets to the show on 2/17! I’ll announce the winner on Friday, February 10th.

Best of luck to all!

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A Much-Needed Break of Reality

Last week I was lucky enough to attend the opening of the Eastman Presents concert series, featuring the talented cello rock group, Break of Reality. I’ll let you catch up- I know that’s a lot to take in. Yes, a cello rock group. And they’re amazing. If you need convincing of that fact, check out their semi-famous (and by semi-famous, I mean 12 million views on YouTube semi-famous) cover of the Game of Thrones theme.

The group was founded in 2003 when the original members were freshmen at the Eastman School of Music. It was a very special night for them to return to Eastman to play a kickass show for a huge, appreciative crowd. Ivan Trevino, their percussionist, did most of the talking that night (because, as he joked, his instrument doesn’t require nearly as much tuning as the rest of the group’s). I was struck by how incredibly humble and grateful he and his bandmates seemed- it was pretty moving to witness.

For one piece, Trevino brought his friends on stage, Michael Burritt and Aaron Staebell, who performed with the group a marimba duet that Trevino himself had composed. It was so cool to see teacher and student performing together- a true testament to a) the relationships built at Eastman and b) the talent cultivated there.

I really didn’t know what to expect when seeing this group perform, but damn, they exceeded whatever expectations I may have had in my brain. I loved their original stuff as much as (if not more than!) their covers. Helix and Star were some of my favorites. I became such a gushing fan that I even had to buy their album! Peruse their YouTube and Spotify pages if you’re interested in taking a deeper dive into their epic music.

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This wasn’t the first time I attended a show as part of the Eastman Presents Series! Last year I saw the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, and they killed it. If you’re curious about what other shows Eastman Presents is bringing to town this year, be sure to check out their website! Break of Reality was pretty stoked to be featured in the same concert series as Renee Fleming (! she’ll be here in November). Personally, Savion Glover has piqued my interest!

 

Whenever I’m in the Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre, I look around and try to remember how lucky we are to have this beautiful gem in Rochester. Sometimes it’s easy to take for granted, but when I’m physically in that space, I just sit in awe and take in the beauty and the luxury. It’s gorgeous. Sometimes I can’t believe that I performed on that stage in both high school and college, or that I walked across it to receive my master’s degree. I’m so grateful for Eastman, for music, and the vibrant arts community in Rochester.