This holiday season, ArtsWave’s Flow, an African American Arts Experience returns. The quarterly performance series is designed to attract a diverse, culturally adventurous audience and create a shared and elevated appreciation for artists of color. Flow complements and expands the existing inventory of multicultural experiences offered by local arts organizations. It brings renowned Black artists and ensembles to the region from around the country to showcase their unique and exciting work.
One of Broadway’s most sought-after leading men serves as Flow’s next headliner. "Norm Lewis: Naughty and Nice" comes to the Aronoff Center on December 3-4. Lewis is bringing a setlist for this performance that is unique from any of his other performances in the U.S. this year, featuring holiday classics, Broadway showstoppers and a few of his personal favorites.
The show balances old and the new, evident in how Lewis ranks his top three Christmas songs: “The Christmas Song,” with its famously roasting chestnuts, is his favorite. “My Favorite Things” comes next, thanks to hearing it on the original Supremes Christmas album at a young age. Third is “Why Couldn’t it Be Christmas Every Day,” a song Jay Landers and Walter Afanasieff (the songwriters behind Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You”) gave to him for his 2018 “The Norm Lewis Christmas Album.”
Lewis feels a duty to help expand opportunities for Black and Brown artists. He was the first Black performer to portray the titular Phantom in “The Phantom of the Opera” on Broadway (Michael Crawford previously played the part in the Musical’s L.A. production). To that end, he co-founded Black Theatre United (BTU) with Audra McDonald, LaChanze, Anna Deavere Smith, Wendell Pierce, Brian Stokes Mitchell and other major Black figures on stage and screen.
BTU takes aim at racial inequity in the theater industry in the wake of instances of police brutality against people of color. Sometimes that means communicating opportunities within the industry with the community. Sometimes it means advocating for resources like a hairdresser who understands Black hair. That vision of a more equitable and inclusive Broadway matches Flow's mission to build a multi-cultural arts community. Reaching that goal means centering diverse perspectives, especially from those who have been excluded in the past. “Once people see themselves represented, you'll find somebody that will gravitate toward that," Lewis explains.
Tickets for “Norm Lewis: Naughty and Nice” are selling out quickly at artswave.org/norm. Flow continues through 2022. Next up: Grammy-nominated vocalist Jazzmeia Horn brings her inventive brand of jazz with notes of R&B and Hip-Hop to the region April 1-2. Mark your calendars and learn more about the series at artswave.org/flow