HAM: A MUSICAL MEMOIR NOW PLAYING AT VIRTUAL THEATERS (VIA LAEMMLE) DECEMBER 3 AND STREAMING (VIA BROADWAY HD) JANUARY 7
Reviewed by Thyronne Millaud: When I was given the assignment to review the film HAM: A Musical Memoir, I had no idea who Sam Harris was. For those who also may not know, he is an award-winning, highly acclaimed singer, songwriter, and Broadway star.
This is the film version of the live performance of his one-man musical based on his 2014 autobiography ‘Ham: Slices of a Life, True Life Tales’. He recounts pivotal events of his life from choking on a Weiner at age three and subsequently being branded with the nickname ‘Ham’, to growing up gay in a small Oklahoma town, to winning the premier season of Star Search and his successful career. Accompanied on piano, by composer Todd Schroeder Harris weaves a mesmerizing tapestry of dramatic monologue and humorous storytelling with the timing of a stand-up comic, and a songbook of original songs, sprinkled with some classics and standards.
By the end of this film, you will know Sam Harris as the ultimate showman. He deftly touches upon the milestones of a life that began in a dusty Bible Belt town and brought him to where he is now with detours in Nashville, Hollywood, and Broadway. He shares not only the highs and triumphs but the lows and darkness he has encountered.
Growing up an odd, unathletic, musical-loving gay boy who claws his way to fame to realize his childhood dream of being in Show Biz, he has plenty of examples of both to pull from. He gets very personal and shies away from nothing, opening up and recalling stories of loneliness, forbidden love, attempted suicides, and feelings of self-doubt with the same abandon and candor that he relates stories of self-discovery and personal as well as professional triumph. He appears to have the live audience riveted as he does in waves of uproarious laughter and pin-drop silence.
Not only can the man sing, but, he can tell a story. During the almost two-hour film, he portrays maybe a dozen characters who played an essential role in his development. People as diverse as his father who he had a loving but uneasy relationship, to an elderly woman in the Baptist church where he first heard and sang a negro spiritual. There’s a funny character of an old Jewish talent agent who books him into an empty venue that he is later fired from for being too loud and who eventually gets him booked on Star Search. As funny and as charming as these are, there a few that are equally touching and emotional such as a high school teacher who tells him there is nothing wrong with him and never change after he confides his homosexuality, and a segment where he talks to his adopted son as he tucks him into bed.
This is more than the story of someone’s rise to fame. This is a human story. At times touching, humorous, painful, and celebratory it’s the story of a life well-lived. I feel fortunate I was able to discover Sam Harris through this vehicle, and I only hope I get a chance to see the stage production live at some point to fully experience his infectious talent and energy live.
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Billy Porter said, “When Sam asked me to help him develop his critically acclaimed memoir Ham: Slices of a Life into a musical theater piece, I jumped at the chance to work with my friend of 25 years. Sam is a tsunami of talent and the work we did in New York resulted in a production that showcased all of Sam’s extraordinary talents—as a writer, songwriter, actor, and of course, that voice! It got phenomenal reviews and went on to play Los Angeles in an award-winning production directed by Ken Sawyer. The film reveals Sam Harris as one of the great showmen of our time, who can have you in hysterics one moment and break your heart the next. Ham is more than Sam’s personal story – its message is universal. It is hilarious, it is raw, it is inspirational and above all, it is human.”
“We are beyond thrilled to have the opportunity to bring this inspiring, heartfelt movie musical to audiences. Sam Harris’s performance is truly uplifting and I can’t think of a better time for this to be released for the World to experience,” stated Global Digital Releasing President, Joe Dain.
Stewart F. Lane and Bonnie Comley, co-founders of BroadwayHD said, “Sam Harris is a legendary talent and HAM: A Musical Memoir is an artfully crafted and performed production that we are incredibly excited to bring to the BroadwayHD platform. We are sure that many of our subscribers will be thrilled to watch the production and will be giving it a standing ovation from their living rooms.”