SAM HARRIS: A CERTIFIED HAM!
REVIEW: HAM: A MUSICAL MEMOIR
BY RYAN M. LUÉVANO
The word memoir, although French, has been reduced to a dusty term used to describe the dreary lives of old people; but make it a musical memoir about Sam Harris and what you have is something different—Ham: A Musical Memoir is enthralling. Sam Harris, multi-million selling recording artist, Tony nominated Broadway and television actor, playwright, composer, director, brings audiences memories and stories from his life in a musical format that delights. Alongside music director Todd Schroeder Harris keeps the audience engaged from the moment he walks on stage.
HAM opens to thunderous applause as eager Harris fans usher in the man they’ve come to see. Harris opens with small talk and humors jokes making everyone in the room feel comfortable with his personality and ready for the journey for which they are about to embark. Following this, from seemingly out of nowhere, Harris bursts into song. He sings, “Open Book” an original song composed by Harris. The song is a bright pop ballad that suits his voice perfectly; we get the husky low tones and the belted silvery top notes of his register. The song builds and builds through various modulations heightening the emotions and excitement of the audience so that by the end of the song we are fully committed to Harris and on the edge of our seats wanting more.
In the course of HAM we are treated to five other Harris originals. The rhythm and blues number “Ham” also featuring a soaring a cappella moment of Jewish chant; the bluesy “Colored Town” (Harris/Todd Schroeder); the soulful gospel song “Revival”; the tender lullaby “Sweet Dreams”; and the glorious finale “Broken Wing”. In addition to these songs we also hear excerpts of various familiar songs from musicals, American folk classics, pop favorites and jazz standards performed a la Harris. In every musical performance Harris gives us everything he has, when he sings the music passes through his entire body in the best kind of way—one of the most powerful and energetic voices in the business.
The direction by Billy Porter/Ken Sawyer and choreography by Lee Martino adds so much to this production. They know Harris’ high-powered energetic style and play to his strengths. All the movement and direction here is a superb balance of natural and strategic—Harris gives you the sense that there’s a full cast on stage performing alongside him.
WHAT ABOUT THE MUSIC DIRECTOR?
Todd Schroeder is just the kind of music director you want at your side; he’s complementary, musically exciting and precise. Here he not only accompanies Harris, but even joins him to sing on a few numbers—a stellar musical talent.
Ham: A Musical Memoir plays at the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Renberg Theatre January 23—February 7, 2016. Friday & Saturday at 8PM & Sunday at 7PM. For more information and tickets visit: http://www.lalgbtcenter.org.