It’s no surprise that Sam Harris lives up to the title of his one man show, Ham: A Musical Memoir. The only type of person who could play over 10 characters in a musical adaptation of his own life needs to have incredible comedic timing, chutzpah, and the ability to laugh at himself. Harris has all that and more, and you will never think of being a ham as a bad thing ever again.
When Harris walks out on stage, it feels like you’ve known him for a very long time. As he begins to tell you the story of his life, he jokes about how the world has changed so much over the years (“Alexander Graham Bell had nothing on Snapchat!”), and we think that his show will simply be an entertaining cabaret-style show. Harris is able to draw us in very easily with his quick wit and easygoing demeanor – he even tells us that he’s nervous as he walks out on stage in this filmed stage production.
When you’re hungry for the stage, you can’t hold it back, and Harris details his youthful attraction to musical theater – he recounts his disappointment of not being seriously considered for the role of Helen Keller in a school production of The Miracle Worker among others. His exuberance for becoming a star drove him through his early years, but growing up in Oklahoma’s conservative Bible Belt didn’t give him a chance to grow emotionally or personally. Like most uninhibited, dramatic kids, he grew up with a seemingly gruff father and didn’t take to playing baseball naturally.
As Harris’ star begins to ascend, the more he struggles with his own identity and being the person he always wanted to be. In an emotional section midway through the show, he recalls how he never thought he would ever get married or have children.
Ham: A Musical Memoir is like a family photo album scored with original songs and familiar ballads like “I Am Changing” and “Don’t Rain on My Parade” as told by your most entertaining family member. Harris is on stage mostly alone (he is joined on stage by pianist Todd Schroeder), and his story is deeply and surprisingly emotional while remaining funny and lighthearted throughout. His message is clear: we are more alike than we realize and we should be as true to ourselves as much as we can. And belt it out like Ethel Merman as we do it.
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