Entertainment » Music

Hello Levi! - Back Where He Belongs

by Shawn Schikora
Friday Aug 25, 2017

The out singer/songwriter and Tony-winning actor Levi Kreis (for his portrayal of Jerry Lee Lewis in the smash "Million Dollar Quartet"), has long openly shared his journey, never flinching from voicing his feelings-and experiences-regarding topics ranging from sexuality, spirituality, politics, religion, drug use and conversion therapy. While at a point in his life and career where he feels confident, Levi is nevertheless unafraid of questioning and taking risks, even if he admits he sometimes doesn't have all the answers.

In the midst of a summer tour to promote his latest CD, Broadway at the Keys, a subtle, nuanced homage to classic showtunes, Levi also has a supporting role as a homophobic pastor in Del Shores' continuing comedic saga, "A Very Sordid Wedding," and plans to return to the studio this fall to record a new CD of original songs. Levi recently took the time from his busy schedule to speak with The Rage Monthly.

You're in the midst of a concert tour. How's the tour going?

I am always reminded why I do what I do when I'm on the road. So much time is poured into other aspects of the business that it's easy to forget how much I am fulfilled by human connection... there's nothing like it.

You released a wonderful Broadway-themed CD earlier this year, "Broadway at the Keys." The CD has been receiving a great reception. Any plans to record a sequel to this CD?

It was a lot of fun making "Broadway At The Keys," but it will likely be the only Broadway-themed album I do. People have enjoyed the singer/songwriter sensibilities I brought to these classics, but my fans are getting very excited about new, original material. I've always written about our experiences of love and self-discovery as LGBT men and women. It's a special bonding experience we have; them hearing my intimate experiences and in turn me learning details about their life and how they've experienced the same thing.

Would you like to perform in another Broadway musical? Any interest or plans to write a musical?

I am currently writing a musical and reviewing new roles coming through New York. As an actor, I believe in finding the "magic fit" and that's not an everyday occurrence. I did love creating the role of Reverend Jimmy Ray Brewton in Del Shores' current hit "A Very Sordid Wedding." This last year I got to do some really fun film work.

Now, switching gears. These are challenging times, especially from a political standpoint. Do you feel as an "out" performer, there is a responsibility to continue sharing your story? Do you feel you can accomplish that best through your art-acting, songwriting, singing and performing-or via more direct action?

To tell you truthfully, I've gone through a period of silence as it relates to me sharing myself, within the context of the current environment. I'm still figuring out what I could possibly say that would contribute to the conversation, in a way that is truly compassionate and meaningful. I'm still sitting on that question. Compassionate discourse is not happening. I want so much to address that somehow, but I'm just not sure how, other than using my art to do so. The music that is coming out of me, in private, is providing me with some clarity. Right now, my commitment is this: Keep feeling and keep writing. We'll see what comes up for me.

Do you feel a spiritual component is missing, or at least lacking, in the current political culture? If so, how can this be corrected, or at least balanced?

I do believe we are getting to a place where spirituality cannot remain a conversation apart from politics. The political has become personal now and, in that, we are trading spiritual virtues like love, patience, empathy, and compassion, for outright intolerance for anyone who hears a narrative
different from our own. Traditional spiritual virtues are currently being replaced with virtues defined by the social justice warrior. Though we would like to think they are the same, they are very much not. I'm still processing all of it myself.

Being spiritual yourself, do you feel the current culture is lacking in this area? If so, how can this be corrected or at least balanced?

Yes, I [believe there is a spiritual lack]. Understand that it is within human nature to believe in something, we cannot help but seek a higher purpose...It's part of being human. I feel like our current culture has little sense of spirituality and little interest in cultivating a meaningful spiritual connection with a higher power. Society is currently acquiring their sense of personal conviction and spiritual purpose from the religion of social justice. As a social study, I think it's interesting to consider, if this is in part a product of a spiritualless society seeking spiritual meaning, when meaningful, law-changing activism is reduced to a bunch of social justice church ladies shaming and name-calling. As far as how this could be balanced, you can always rely on the pendulum swinging the opposite direction-it will in time-perhaps not before the fall-out.

What are your feelings of integrating spirituality and sexuality? Why do you feel some believe a dichotomy exists between these two areas?

My two favorite topics. Certainly traditional religion has been the culprit for creating a dichotomy between sex and spirit. When I started practicing Wicca, I opened up to exploring ways of combining primal, masculine sex with Divine Spirit. In my opinion, an orgasm is the closest we get to nirvana
in this body. Not that orgasm has to be a spiritual experience, and not that we need a sexual partner to make it happen. Some of the most transcendental meditations I have happen when incorporating sexual energy. It's mind blowing to explore how the two dance together.

Many voice strong opinions as to what is correct and incorrect regarding spiritual growth. In your opinion, what are the biggest obstacles to spiritual growth?

Good question! If there is one thing I seem to come back to over and over, if not simply for my own reminding, it is the challenge of having a daily spiritual practice. Whatever one believes, whatever one's "higher power" may be, I do think it is important to connect every day. My ex was more agnostic; for him, nature walks were his way of connecting with something greater than himself. I believe that is personal to each individual. The challenge is making it as consistent as we do the gym, or other self-care behaviors. Our life really does shift when we address our spirit on a daily basis.

You've been very open about your experience with conversion therapy. What would you tell someone who advocates the idea that spirituality and sexuality don't coincide, or that being gay is wrong, sinful, or at very least, a distraction to spiritual growth?

I'm very committed to having a spiritual conversation within our community. I understand that a great deal of our community has been wounded by religion and it was the source of my many pains. Not only the six years of conversion therapy, but in my life I have experienced real discrimination: I have been denied education by a southern Baptist college, I have been denied employment countless times... all for being gay.

The thing any young person should know is this: Quit bitching and get tough! No one has to like you, but you have to love yourself, deeply and meaningfully. You have to give yourself permission to be great. You have to live authentically and unapologetically. You have to work hard and make life happen on your terms... period. Only you can give yourself that kind of lasting love. Self-love is my number one sermon to every young person coming up behind me. Our happiness depends on no one else but us, to think otherwise would be to insult your own personal power. And you, dear one, are more powerful than you know.

In your opinion, what is the one thing people can do to help create more harmony and peace-right here, right now?

Oh, goodness: Forgive, forgive, forgive. As someone who is still working on forgiving a certain person in my past, I will not pretend it is easy. Resentment clogs up our finances, our relationships and our abundance. It's a cancer that eats up our body. Want to discover the fountain of youth? Forgive-always-every night before you go to bed.

You've accomplished so much. But, in some ways, do you feel you're really just starting out, with more to accomplish?

So much, that I feel overwhelmed. But for me, I think it's the aspiration to understand the world I now live in. Because I don't. But one thing I know from my past-coming out, using my music to speak out and fight for myself, my people, my equality-music led me to clarity. Music led me to my truth and music will continue to do that very thing. To be continued.

"Broadway at the Keys" is available on all streaming platforms.

Keep up with Levi at facebook.com/levikreis

Instagram: LeviKreis

For more performance dates and to purchase tickets, or to sign up for Levi's blog/newsletter, go to levikreis.com

Copyright Rage Monthly. For more articles from Rage visit www.ragemonthly.com


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