When Broadway star Norm Lewis takes the stage later this month for the San Diego Symphony's Bayside Summer Nights Broadway tribute, he will be revisiting music he has loved and sung for years and years and years.
Later this month, Lewis will be joined by dancer and Tony-nominated “An American in Paris” lead Robert Fairchild and Aundi Marie Moore to sing selections from "An American in Paris," "Porgy and Bess" and other George Gershwin songs at the outdoor concert, part of the Symphony's summer series.
"It's always great to do (George) Gershwin's music, no matter what song it is," Lewis said in an interview with NBC 7.
The actor has sung Gershwin music for many years. But audiences heading to see the concert are in for a treat, whether they know it or not: back in 2012, Lewis starred opposite Audra McDonald in the Broadway revival of the Gershwins' "Porgy and Bess." The piece follows Porgy, a black, disabled beggar living in Charleston as he attempts to rescue Bess from her violent lover and her drug dealer.
Lewis will be revisiting many of those classic songs on stage in San Diego.
It will not be an exact replica of what Lewis, McDonald and the Broadway cast sang on the Great White Way; that production had different arrangements to help the piece, which is classically an opera, transform into more of a musical theater sound -- with a lot of jazz.
"It's just its own thing," Lewis said about the opera. "It's not Verde and it's not Puccini, but it's not completely Miles Davis either. It's just a nice fusion of the two genres together."
But regardless, Lewis said, he's excited to sing these songs close to his heart.
"It's just going to be grand to sing the music, no matter what orchestrations or what arrangements there are for those songs," Lewis said.
This time around, the actor will be singing some songs in more of a classical style, to stay true to the authentic version of the show that still plays in opera houses now.
"When you do it with an orchestra and you do it from the actual 'Porgy and Bess' opera, I think that there has to be a little bit more of a different style of singing there," Lewis said.
Singing the music of "Porgy and Bess" holds a special significance for Lewis. So many legendary singers have sung the same notes he has sung, from Bing Crosby to Frank Sinatra to Ella Fitzgerald.
"I've seen them on variety shows, or I've seen them on even Youtube right now, and...just thinking about where I was when I first heard it or when I heard it at a particular moment in my life, and what those words mean," Lewis said.
But it's not just "Porgy and Bess," Lewis said. The actor will sing several other iconic Gershwin pieces.
In fact, Lewis said, there really isn't a Gershwin song that he doesn't like. "They're just amazing," he said, adding that he is looking forward to singing just about every song come mid-August.
The beautiful combination of music and lyrics speak for themselves, Lewis said.
"You don't really have to act the song, because the music does it for you," Lewis said. "You just have to say the words and follow the notes and it just absorbs within your body."
The lyrics of one Gershwin song in particular offer such depth of emotion, Lewis said.
"'The way you wear your hat, the way you sip your tea, you can't take that away from me,'" Lewis said, quoting a line for a song in "An American in Paris." "Those words are so, besides poetic, they mean something. You think about maybe a loved one, and how that makes you feel."
Lewis said he is also looking forward to returning to San Diego, one of his favorite cities in the world.
"I cannot wait to get there and I can't wait to sing this music and meet the people that live in San Diego and the people who are coming to visit to see the show," Lewis said.
The last time he visited several years ago for a real estate conference, it poured rain for three days straight.
"San Diego owes me a really nice trip," Lewis joked.