This article was originally Jenelle RileyActing Up newsletter – visit the Acting Up sign-up page to subscribe for weekly updates on early content and acting.
In “A Soldier’s Play,” Captain Richard Davenport’s purpose is not to sing. But when you use the legendary baritone norm lewis You take advantage of her talents in the role. Lewis can be seen in the national touring production currently playing in Los Angeles. Ahmanson Theater – and it’s thanks to director Kenny Leon that viewers heard Davenport sing at certain points in the show.
Written by Charles Fuller, “A Soldier’s Play” takes place on an Army base in 1944, when the army is still separated. Captain Davenport, a rare Black officer, is sent to investigate the shooting of Sergeant Vernon Waters. Despite being Black himself, Waters despises and persecutes Black men, whom he feels are perpetuating old-fashioned stereotypes.
“A Soldier’s Play” was staged in a 1981 production by the Negro Ensemble Company Off-Broadway starring Denzel Washington, David Alan Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, and Adolph Caesar. It won the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and produced a movie version of “A Soldier’s Story” in 1984. The play has seen many notable revivals over the years, but it made its Broadway debut in 2020, with Leon directing a cast that included Blair Underwood. and Grier now plays Waters – a performance that earned the actor a Tony Award for best actor in a play.
A Grammy, Emmy, and Tony Award nominee, Lewis has a long history of tackling iconic roles – on Broadway as Javert in “Les Misérables”, as King Triton in “The Little Mermaid” and “The Little Mermaid.” . ghost in the operaHe was the first African American actor to play the lead in a Broadway production. “A Soldier’s Play” is the second game after the “Chicken & Biscuits” series in 2021.
California residents can also catch Lewis on June 12. Catalina Jazz Club and on July 30 at the Hollywood Bowl “Everybody stand up! A Sondheim Celebrationof 92NY’s Midsummer Music Festival in New York.An Evening with Norm Lewis” On July 11th. And in August, he will reprise his role as Phantom in the concert version of the musical sequel “Phantom of the Opera”.love never dies” In London’s West End.
Variation He rarely caught Lewis in his spare time.
Like the soldiers, I’m so happy Davenport sang in this production. How did that happen?
It was Kenny’s idea. I decided to add some musical elements to the show to help with the transitions. The cast sing what they call work songs; Songs that men will sing together, especially in prison. the idea was: [show that] These men are in jail even though they are at an army base. They are trained to fight, they just do the dirty work.
Now, as far as I sing, he wanted to use our assets. When Blair Underwood does it on Broadway – Blair is a sex symbol, you know? So at rehearsal, Kenny said, “Hey, can you turn on one more button?” He was shirtless when the show opened. In addition to his acting talent, that’s part of his talent. Kenny said, “Why don’t we give people what they want?” When I sing, I have a part of me. We liked the idea that he could be a frustrated singer who was in the army.
Although it premiered in 1981, “A Soldier’s Play” feels more current than ever. I wonder what your relationship is with the show – have you seen or read it before?
Unfortunately I never watched the play but I did watch the movie in the mid 80’s. I remember something that changed the scope of what I knew about history, especially Black men, and the 1940s. The movie was great – and that cast! Denzel Washington, David Alan Grier, Robert Townsend. And the man I always called Denzel before Denzel, Howard Rollins.
Although it was written and adjusted a long time ago, it feels more up to date than ever before.
We talked a lot about this. Charles Fuller wrote in the late 70’s or early 80’s, but it was set in the 1940s. It is still very common during this time though. Without giving too much away, there are many scenarios today that reflect what happens in 2023. It’s a murder mystery but it’s covered in this case of self-hatred racism. Charles Fuller put on a nice show. I guess that’s why it won the Pulitzer.
What are some of the challenges of making a game – especially this game – versus a musical?
I use the same muscles and the intent is the same but I don’t just sing. And I have three main monologues – that’s the most I’ve ever had to say on a show. I want to respect Charles Fuller’s words and say them truthfully and with great intent. And just to be right.
In the concert performance of “Love Never Dies”, you will reprise the role of Ghost. How does it feel to revisit that role?
It’s great because I’ve wanted this role for so long. I saw the original in 1994 and said, “I have to be in this show somehow.” And 20 years later, I have to do it. So dreams can come true. And you can’t say no to Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber.
What do you think is the lasting appeal of the Phantom? People just admire him.
I think part of her charm is that she feels like an outsider. And we can all feel that way. He’s always trying to make sure he’s put on the right mask so people can accept him in the real world, and we all do it figuratively or literally. I think people see themselves in this man, just as tragic as he is.
I hope we get away with murder.
Right, absolutely. And I’m sure many people relate to this idea of love that slips away in our lives.
Now that we’ve discussed past roles, have you been able to watch Javier Bardem’s movie “The Little Mermaid” as Triton?
No, I really want it! I’m so excited because it looks great and the cast is great. I mean, Javier Bardem? I can’t wait to see what your comment is. I remember seeing ‘Aquaman’ and thinking that if they did ‘The Little Mermaid’ that’s how it would work. And I’m sure it looks even better now with the advancement of technology.
Since you play so many roles, what feature do people know about you the most? “Scandal” on stage or something else?
Of course, I come across “Scandal” a lot. And there is a band that knows me from my Broadway career. But mostly people will say, “Oh, you look familiar to me…” Someone came up to me and said, “Has anyone ever told you you look like Norm Lewis?” I was like, “Yeah, I always get that”.
“A Soldier’s Play” continues at the Ahmanson Theater until 25 June. For tickets and information, visit: https://www.centertheatregroup.org/tickets/ahmanson-theatre/2022/a-soldiers-play/