Seven years prior to American Idol breaking out on Fox to become one of the most successful and talked about television shows in U.S. history, there was Star Search.
From 1983 to 1995, Ed McMahon hosted the talent competition filmed initially at the old Earl Carroll Theatre (now the Nickelodeon) on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood.
Among the talent presented on the show were Beyoncé, Aaliyah, Christina Aguilera, Alanis Morissette and Usher.
None of the above won.
Young Sam Harris, with his big hair and bigger voice took the prize for “male vocalist” that first season with a powerhouse rendering of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. (Runner up that season for “best junior female vocalist” was Tiffany,)
Harris’ career has been meandering since then. A Top 40 hit here, a Tony Award there, some film, some television as both actor and producer and now to the Renberg Theatre at the Los Angeles LGBT Center for his one man show Ham a Musical Memoir.
Behind the scenes Harris has brought together what surely qualifies a Dream Team.
Billy Porter and Ken Sawyer share directing credits, with Elaine Krauss, Susan Dietz and Jon Imparato producing.
With this group behind a show it could’ve featured a Garden Gnome on stage and still have
been a success.
And let it be said, Sam Harris is no Garden Gnome.
With the avid support of Todd Schroeder as his on-stage accompanist, Harris relates with poignancy and style the difficulties of being a gay youth in Oklahoma at the end of the Eisenhower years and the pathway to his win on the stage of Star Search.
The show is warm and fuzzy, with lots of love going out to his partner Danny Jacobsen and their adopted son Cooper.
The show has humor and songs; lots and lots of songs.
Harris knows how to win an audience over, and the years haven’t dulled that voice that boomed outa the fresh-faced kid with the Elvis pompadour.
This is not a show that will probably change anyone’s life.
But it is that glittering type of entertainment, sleek and smart, we see less and less of these days.
So for pure first-rate entertainment you can’t beat Sam Harris’ Ham a Musical Memoir.
But if you go, don’t go expecting Ibsen with tunes, just be sure to take along your tapping toes.
♦ ♦ ♦
“HAM: A MUSICAL MEMOIR”
WRITTEN & PERFORMED BY SAM HARRIS
DIRECTED BY BILLY PORTER & KEN SAWYER
MUSICAL DIRECTION BY TODD SCHROEDER
JANUARY 23—FEBRUARY 7, 2016
FRIDAY & SATURDAY AT 8PM
SUNDAY AT 7PM
LOS ANGELES LGBT CENTER’S
1125 N. McCADDEN PLACE