WINTER GARDEN — Fresh off an off-Broadway run of his theatrical show, multi-platinum recording artist and Broadway star Sam Harris will headline “Garden Encore!” the premier fundraiser of the Garden Theatre, at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, March 7, at the theater, 160 W. Plant St., Winter Garden.
This event serves as the theater’s celebration of its seventh anniversary since its reopening after restoration and a means to draw donations for its $420,000 annual fundraising goal as a non-profit committed to enrichment through creativity and performing arts. Garden Theatre officials will announce the 2015-16 live season for the theater, as well.
Harris, who won the first season of “Star Search” in 1983-84 and has attained Tony and Drama Desk award nominations, will entertain a local audience with what he calls an eclectic mix of pop, Broadway and comedy.
“I always do an eclectic bit of material and created an art for that sort of concert,” Harris said. “I’d rather not get too specific, but I’m doing some songs that I’m associated with and then some original material. There’s some Broadway, from songs I love to songs I’ve done on Broadway. I’m going to do a couple of songs from the new show, ‘Ham,’ and songs that I’ve recorded — it’s a real mix.”
That show, called “Ham: A Musical Memoir,” is based on Harris’s recently released first book, “Ham: Slices of a Life,” a series of tales and essays on everything from when he grew up in Oklahoma to show business, fame and his life as a husband and a father. Both have received positive reviews from The New York Times.
“Last year, I released my book, called ‘Ham: Slices of a Life,’ and I did a show that was partly a reading and a musical event in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, but we didn’t get up to Orlando,” Harris said. “I will enjoy just being with a lot of great people. My sister-in-law used to work in Disney World and now works in Disneyland. I know (seeing her in the audience) will be fun for me personally.”
Harris has not been to the Garden Theatre, but he accepted the invitation to perform at it for this event because of the enthusiastic people who care about carrying on the traditions of theater in West Orange.
“They called, and I said yes,” he said in deadpan. “When they told me about the Garden Theatre and its status as a non-profit organization and the things they do in developing theater and hosting plays, concerts and movies for the community, it sounded like something I would be happy to be a part of. Theater is tough, especially for not-for-profits. Anytime people get together for a single cause with a passion for theater, it’s going to be a great night.”
Joining Harris that night will be his accompanist and musical director, Todd Schroeder, with whom he has worked for more than 20 years.
“He’s the best,” Harris said. “We just breathe together. Whenever we do a special event, we try to put specific material from my repertoire together that fits the crowd. We’ve rehearsed and will get there the day before. The day of, we’ll have a rehearsal and a sound check, and then the next day I get up at the crack of dawn to go back to LA.”
From large-venue tours to small-venue one-offs such as this, Harris is accustomed to popping all over the place, he said.
“Everyone that we’ve been working with (from the Garden Theatre) has just been amazing, on their game, excited and really focused to make it a good event,” he said.
The event will begin with a reception catered by alFresco at the rooftop greenhouses of the adjacent Roper Garden Building, featuring fresh Mediterranean cuisine.