He was most recently seen as the high priest Caiaphas opposite singer John Legend
in NBC’s Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert but on Friday, April 6, Broadway star Norm Lewis took on a new role – mentoring students
from Saint Louis University and other area colleges and high school at a Musical Theater
Lewis, a Tony-nominated actor, was the first African-American to play the lead in
Andrew Lloyd Weber’s hit ThePhantom of the Opera. He most recently performed as part of the Cabaret Project’s season at the Sheldon
Concert Hall on Saturday, April 7.
Students from SLU, Webster University, and the Central Visual and Performing Arts
High School, performed mock auditions with songs ranging from jazz ballads penned
by Bing Crosby to “Stars” from Les Miserables. Lewis offered suggestions, drawing from his years of performance experience, and
guided students from straight-forward presentations of their songs to thinking about
how to embody the characters behind them.
The class, like others hosted recently by SLU, draw from the deep professional connections
of faculty members in the Department of Fine and Performing Arts and from among SLU’s
alumni. For example, a recent March master class, taught by Broadway actor Kyle Barisich,
came about due to Barisich’s ties to assistant professor Stephanie Tennill. Barisich
was the first actor of Latino descent to play Raoul in the 25th anniversary production of ThePhantom of the Opera and has appeared in South Pacific, Into the Woods, and Titanic, among other productions in his career.
The department has also been able to open up community stages to its students thanks
to community partnerships with groups like the Cabaret Project and through an agreement with the Kranzberg
Arts Foundation. As part of that agreement, SLU theater productions have graced Grand
Center stages owned by the foundation this season. SLU Theatre’s next production,
the musical Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson, will open later this month at the Grandel Theatre.