Garner’s Rozlyn Sorrell takes the stage with Broadway’s Norm Lewis

tstevens@newsobserver.comFebruary 18, 2014 

Garner’s Rozlyn Sorrell seized her moment on Saturday when Broadway star Norm Lewis unexpectedly invited her to the stage for a duet during his sold out performance at the Garner Performing Arts Center.

Lewis was nominated for a Tony Award for his performance in “The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess.” Eight times a week he sang “Bess, You Is My Woman Now” with five-time Tony winner Audra McDonald, the queen of Broadway.

But on this night, Sorrell was his companion.

“I’m still flying,” Sorrell said on Monday. “I’ve sung the song many times, but never with Norm Lewis.”

The duet was a surprise to everyone, except Lewis. He had seen a clip of Sorrell singing the song on the Internet, and knew she in the audience through mutual friend Stephen Barefoot, who had helped get Lewis to Garner for Broadway Voices. Lewis decided to invite her up for a song.

Early in the concert he said he wanted everyone to feel like they were in his living room for a night of singing and conversation.

The song is a difficult one to sing. The rhythm changes and the singers alternate voices, sing together and also sing different lyrics at the same time.

“To do it without rehearsal and with a new accompanist is stepping out there,” said Neal Padgett, the president of the Garner Chamber of Commerce and one of the founders of Broadway Voices.

“And it turned out so incredibly well.”

Sorrell had written Lewis before Thanksgiving, saying she was glad that he was coming to Garner and that she had performed the song. She never heard anything back and assumed the duet wouldn’t happen.

Her heart stirred during the concert after Lewis sang “I Got Plenty O’ Nothing,” the song he said had earned him his Tony nomination for “Porgy & Bess.”

Lewis said there was someone in the audience he wanted to sing with.

“Then he said ‘Sophia.’ I figured there was someone else there,” Sorrell said.

No. There was no one else. He said Sophia, but meant Sorrell. He got the name right and she went up. No warm up. No preparation.

They moved closer to accompanist Darius Frowner so Lewis could look over his shoulder to see the words.

And then they cut loose.

“They looked like they had rehearsed the song for weeks,” Padgett said. “It was one of the great moments we’ve had during Broadway Voices.”

The concert series brings Broadway stars to the Garner Performing Arts Center. Tony nominee Christiane Noll comes to Garner on March 15 after a string of major symphony performances in Detroit, Pittsburgh and Charlotte. She heads to Houston after Garner.

The duet by Sorrell and Lewis received cheers and a standing ovation, one of four during the show.

“It was really well-received,” said Lewis, who had sung on The Today Show two days before.

“She was amazing. She did such a wonderful job. It was a lot of fun to sing with her. It turned out to be a big surprise. I think people enjoyed it. I know I enjoyed singing with her.”

Broadway Voice artists have performed with Garner people a few times during the concerts. Dana Stephenson sang a duet with Broadway’s David Burnham and Kayleigh Bennett danced during Ciaran Sheehan’s “Galway to Broadway Christmas.”

“We have some very talented people in Garner,” Padgett said. “It’s nice to share the spotlight occasionally.”

The performance continued an amazing month for Sorrell, who just finished a critically proclaimed performance in “Black Pearl Sings” at the Temple Theater in Sanford.

“It has been quite a year,” she said. “It is a night that I will never forget.”

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