Pop star Sheena Easton and Broadway actor/singer Sam Harris will join forces Friday at the Schuster Center for the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra’s “Rewind: Celebrating the Music of the ’80s,” the fourth and final concert in this year’s Summer in the City Music Festival.
Easton, a two-time Grammy Award winner known for her terrific renditions of upbeat toe-tapper “Morning Train” and passionate James Bond ballad “For Your Eyes Only,” and Harris, a dynamic, mind-blowing tenor who rose to fame as the Grand Champion on the premiere season of “Star Search” in 1983, will sing an assortment of tunes from such artists as Whitney Houston, Wham!, Toto, U2 and Kool and the Gang.
“There was a great deal of diversity in the music that was popular during the 1980s,” said Harris, a 1997 Tony Award nominee for his performance as Jojo in Cy Coleman’s musical “The Life.” “There were soaring ballads, fun numbers and just more of an eclectic mix than the music of today. There were some absolute gems from that era, songs that have stood the test of time.”
One of Harris’ favorite songs is “Open Arms,” an emotional Journey classic that ranks among the era’s finest power ballads. He also finds great joy and meaning in the music of Cyndi Lauper.
“Steve Perry is a god, and ‘Open Arms’ is just an amazing, gorgeous ballad everyone knows,” he said. “I’m also a fan of ‘True Colors’ and ‘Time After Time,’ which are good songs that don’t feel dated. I’m excited to sing ‘Open Arms’ and ‘Time After Time’ in the concert.”
Harris, author of “HAM: Slices of a Life” and whose stage credits include “Grease,” “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and “The Producers,” will also sing Kenny Loggins’ “Footloose” and George Michael’s “Faith,” as conducted by maestro Patrick Reynolds. He says when he signed on to co-star in the concert the idea of being with an orchestra was a huge plus.
“Performing these songs with an orchestra truly adds another dimension to the music,” he said. “The concert is so fun and the orchestrations really enhance the beautiful ballads in the show. It’s thrilling to be able to hear the strings and other instruments that support these songs.”
Reflecting on his memorable time on “Star Search,” the launching pad for many aspiring artists from Britney Spears to Rosie O’Donnell, Harris is grateful for the opportunity to have had such a significant platform to reach the public and pursue his dreams. His fantastic, winning rendition of “Over the Rainbow” has become his signature number and is included in the concert.
“There was an innocence, originality and rawness about ‘Star Search,’ ” he said. “We weren’t told what to wear. I picked my own material. We had different judges every week. But it was an extraordinary time. The power of television is incomparable. I am fortunate to have been a part of that time in television and music history. Because of my history with the decade and ‘Star Search’ I will be singing ‘Over the Rainbow’ in the concert. Even though all the music in our concert was written and recorded in the 1980s it’s the only song from another era.”
The evening will also include such tunes as “I Want to Know What Love Is,” “Jessie’s Girl,” “Separate Ways,” and “Up Where We Belong.” Harris feels the power of nostalgia heightens the appeal and popularity of era-driven concerts.
“We relate those songs to specific times in our lives,” he said. “We remember where we first heard them whether it was at a party or perhaps a reminder of a first love. Looking back we can say whether that was a time we were more carefree or just in a different place in our lives. For me, the lyric to ‘Time After Time’ remains powerful. I have my own interpretation and my own perspective that really taps into the lyric rather than just the hook of the song.”
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