Levi Kreis had to go through hell to go to ‘Hadestown’

Long before lighting up the Orpheum Theater in San Francisco, where he plays Hermes (narrator) in a touring production of the Broadway hit “Hadstown,” Tennessee native Levi Kreis began his own gospel and country folk dance until the age of 12. was making music. Despite his talent, he says, he had trouble signing with a record label because he was openly gay.

However, Kreis kept at it and overcame long-term personal and professional obstacles—several years of gay conversion therapy, being kicked out of his conservative college, violent gay-bashing, struggles with drug addiction—a To start a successful career as a musician and actor.

He calmed down, continued to work on his music, and got his big break after winning a syndicated radio version of “The Apprentice.” Kreis has since released nine albums, spanning genres such as piano pop, gospel, country, R&B and jazz. He is also a songwriter whose compositions have been featured in over a dozen popular films and television shows, and have made the top 10 on several music charts.

He was also drawn to acting, and on the advice of his manager, Kreis auditioned for the role of Jerry Lee Lewis in Broadway’s “Million Dollar Quartet”. He got the role, and won a Tony Award, as well as Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle honors for the role. He also appeared in films such as “Fralty” with Matthew McConaughey. In addition to touring “Hadstown,” Kreis will be on the road later this year with his annual Home for the Holiday concert tour. What comes after all of that, Levi hopes to continue sharing his story, and there may be something special in the works…

Levi Cross knew he wanted to be an entertainer at a young age, and by the time he was 12, he was recording country and R&B tunes. (Courtesy of Hayden Anderson / Levi Kreis)

The singer-songwriter and actor talked to us about his career during his break from working on “Hadstown.”

Why: How does being a music producer and musician yourself affect your work and experience as a performer of other people’s music? How do they connect with each other?

a: The tie-in for me is being an actor. Whether I’m slipping into a space I’ve been born with, a song I’ve written, or whether I’m trying on someone else’s feel for a song or character, the things that matter to any of them are an honest, authentic, reliable explanation. Qualities that will grow and develop as an actor. For some reason, I’ve always felt that everything connected to me, just to be able to understand a character’s emotional journey or emotional journey I was personally going through when I wrote something.

Why: You have gone through a lot to get to where you are, how would you say those experiences contribute to your work and your art?

a: It’s important for me to admit that I devoted most of my 20s to some great music moguls and major record labels, and generally found that when they discovered my sexuality, the marketing team didn’t know it. That’s how to market someone who is openly gay. If I hadn’t been openly gay, in my 20s, 2000s, I probably would have moved on, and that was very hard for me. I felt that no matter what I did, I could never express myself or progress in my career, so that’s when I turned to a freelance artist, and to the LGBTQ community to tell my story. Turned. Those experiences gave me the determination to tell my story, no matter what obstacles I encountered.

I no longer trust other people with yes, because I never met them, and that kind of light is still a fire beneath me. Nobody ever gave me that platform, I had to build it for myself.

Why: You’ve been making music from a very young age and honing your craft, if you have a message or any advice to say your child’s version of, what would it be?

a: I would tell him that there is no arrival point, careers have their ups and downs. Enjoy the journey, stay true to who you are at any given time, and know that the only person you have to make happy is who you are.

Why: You play Hermes (the narrator) in Hadestown right now, what is it about this character that you’re personally drawn to?

a: The first thing that attracted me to Hadestown was the music by Anas Michel. As someone who is of the South, of the blues, of the soul, of the country, of Americana music, it is something that is already in my DNA. On top of that, the character of Hermes leans into the quarter of America I grew up in, which is bluesy gospel and jazz, and so it had an added appeal. Then, there’s the fact that he’s a very special kind of showman. I think I’m attracted to those roles, whether it’s publicist or Jerry Lee Lewis, or whatever the case may be, I like to step into those roles and just bring my own signature.

Why: Are there any other roles or characters you’re really looking forward to playing one day, or a general production you’d like to do one day?

a I’ve always been a fan of developing new works more than falling into pieces that already exist. There are several notable roles being created right now in the secrecy of the writing room and studio workshop. Some of my favorite roles are roles I’ve worked on and invested in, and haven’t done on Broadway that the world will never see. This is a tough question to answer, because I believe there is so much good stuff in the making, that it should be narrowed down to something… I just don’t want to!

Why: Do you ever find yourself writing a play or a musical?

a: Strange that you must ask, because I’ve been working on my music for 18 months. I think it’s going to be a beautiful fusion of my music life and my acting life. It’s also a very unconventional way of telling an autobiographical story; We’re using a lot of theatrical equipment that I think is going to be very new for people to experience, but what I’m most excited about is that I’ve been very bold about some very difficult issues. Let’s move on to the ones that are relevant to LGBTQ. community, and I hope this will be a very therapeutic piece for a lot of people in that community.


By Anas Mitchell, Presented by BroadwaySF

By: July 3

Where: Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market St. (in Hyde), San Francisco

running time: two hours 40 minutes, one timeout

Ticket: $56-$256 (subject to change); www.broadwaysf.com

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