Actor and recording artist Levi Kreis was packing his bags for his regional debut in Miami Beach last July when he was notified that The Cabaret South Beach had been suddenly evicted by its landlord.
Nearly a year later, the Tony Award-winner will have another opportunity to dazzle South Florida audiences, this time as the featured entertainer at the Diversity Honors at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino and Resort on Friday, May 13. And this time, there’s absolutely no chance his performance will be canceled.
SFGN spoke with Kreis last year, when the talented actor and singer equated his showbiz success to lightning striking twice:
“Nobody sees the 15 years of work that takes place before the lightning strikes,” he insisted, noting the same is true for many artists who seem to burst onto the entertainment scene. “It’s been a process to celebrate.”
Kreis grew up in a small town near Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He was “the little boy who would pound out tunes on the piano as soon as he heard them” and began composing his own songs by the age of 12.
He knew he was gay at an early age, but yearned to be a Christian musical artist and fit in with his peers, a period he called “his biggest torture.” Kreis even secretly underwent conversion therapy and had “hands laid on me more times than I can count.” Eventually, he accepted “the breath of God is in each of us to be who we are.”
Kreis eventually left Tennessee and headed to L.A., where he landed a lead role in an indie film as Matthew McConaughey’s brother. He was then cast in a musical that had been greenlighted for Broadway when the 9/11 terrorist attacks occurred.
“Nobody wanted to touch it,” Kreis recalled, “and major record labels didn’t know what to do with me as an openly gay man.”
He got his first break in 2004 when his producer suggested him for a challenge on “The Apprentice.” The competitors would develop a marketing plan for him and his music. But, there was a downside. He was forced to sign a six-month confidentiality agreement until the episode aired, even if that seven minutes could potentially change his life.
“I had $200 and was living in Hoboken, New Jersey. I spent it recording 10 of my songs that would eventually become my debut album. A friend put together a website and we just waited for the episode to air,” he said. “I just hoped enough people would see the episode. Well, a thousand orders came through, (and) the next night, another thousand, and then another thousand.”
Other big breaks came when he was cast in the touring company of “Rent” and later, as Jerry Lee Lewis in the Broadway smash, “Million Dollar Quartet.” Kreis would leave Radio City Music Hall with a Tony Award in his hand.
Not long afterwards, one of his songs would be included in the soundtrack for the season two finale of the CW Network series, “The Vampire Diaries,” introducing his music to yet another new audience. His music was also featured on the AMC series, “Sons of Anarchy.”
“It’s a testament to what happens when we let go of others’ expectations,” he said adamantly, “a process to celebrate.”
Honesty is a theme Kreis “sticks to” in everything he does. Like so many entertainers, he struggled with addiction and has been sober for six years, but he embraces the freedom and self-love recovery has offered.
Like the Diversity Honors award recipients at the ceremony, presented by the Pride Center and Harvey Milk Foundation, Kreis faced his challenges head on and the results speak—or rather, sing—for themselves.
Levi Kreis will appear at the Diversity Honors on Friday, May 13 at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino and Resort in Hollywood. Tickets are $175 at DiversityHonors.com.