People will Talk: Norman Sham
Photo courtesy of Norman Sham
Curtain Up, the annual celebration of Buffalo’s theatrical season opening is getting ready to explode with the 30th iteration of its pre-show, black-tie gala and after-show, late-night street party. That’s this Friday, September 16.
To gauge what the community is in for, I checked in with popular actor, comedian and singer Norm Sham...who is directing the Kavinoky Theatre’s season opener, “42nd Street.” Sham, 45, spoke about the influence of siblings, the necessity of a good brass section, and letting the work come to you.
Jana Eisenberg: “42nd Street” is a bold choice.
Norm Sham: It’s a monumental undertaking: the biggest full-scale musical ever written. And it’s causing me to pull out what little hair I have left. Seriously, rehearsals went well. There are always bouts early on of trying to make all the pieces fit, and achieve what needs to be achieved.
JE: What is that, and how do you achieve it?
NS: All I wanted to try and achieve is what the Broadway cast did in a Broadway house, just on a slightly smaller scale: they had a cast of 54, playing to a house of 2,000; we’re a cast of 19, playing to 260. But we haven’t sacrificed much.
What I did right, if all goes well the rest of the week, is surround myself with good people—I assembled a really strong group, between the crew, the actors and the band. I feel good about that.
JE: How did you get started in theater?
NS: We grew up on Grand Island. My older brother Peter and [Musicalfare Artistic Director] Randy Kramer were best friends; after high school, they started writing musicals together, and I’d tag around. I was the “little brother.” I’d do the technical stuff.
When I was in high school, people wanted me to do shows, but I thought, “Not for me.” I was shyer then. I also didn’t necessarily want to follow the footsteps of my brothers. As any sibling would, I wanted to find my own path.
I started out professionally in theater in the technical end: prop building, set design—I’m a three-time Artvoice Artie loser for set design! I started doing strictly acting in the mid ‘90s.
JE: How do you choose your own roles?
NS: I never look at a show and say, “That’s one I want to do.” I didn’t feel that way about “[A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the] Forum”; people have asked me if I want to do Tevye in “Fiddler [on the Roof].” I don’t approach things that way; when a job comes around, I think about it then.
JE: Good luck with the production of “42nd Street.” What do you think is going to be a high point for the show?
NS: The sound of the band; real music, incredible musicians. It’s very hot and very good. I wanted that old-time brassy feel. I could have gone with one trumpet, but I really wanted two. It’s amazing what an extra trumpet will do.
Note: For information about Curtain Up!, including a list of the 16 theaters with shows either newly opened or opening this week, visit the Theater District Association at www.tdaofwny.com. For tickets to the pre-theater gala cocktail/dinner at Shea’s ($95/person), call 716.901.5475. For tickets to a show, contact individual theaters. The after-show street party is free.
Jana Eisenberg is a Buffalo-based writer and editor. She writes frequently about topics including theater, style, food, and neighborhoods. Send your ideas for People Will Talk to her at email@example.com.