Lightning never strikes twice in the same place. Or does it? Just ask actor and recording artist Levi Kreis, who will be making his regional debut on July 31 at the Cabaret South Beach.
“But nobody sees the 15 years of work that takes place before the lightning strikes,” he insisted, noting the same is true for many artists—especially his award-winning friends from Los Angeles—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, Tenn. He was the little boy who would pound out tunes on the piano as soon as he heard them and was composing his own songs by 12.
He knew he was gay at an early age, but wanted to be a Christian musical artist and fit in, 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 McConaghey’s brother. He was then cast in a musical greenlit 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. Unfortunately, he was forced to sign a six-month confidentiality agreement until the episode would air, 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 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, the next night, another thousand, and 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 2 finale of the CW Network series, “The Vampire Diaries,” introducing his music to yet another new audience. His music is 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.
Intimacy and honesty also guide his cabaret show. There is no set list, no rules, just Kreis on the stage with a piano.
“It’s a very intimate, raw, vulnerable look at my life and career,” Kreis said.
He likes to share the stories about his songs, how he got his start on stage, the struggles and yes, those times when lightning struck, too.
Levi Kreis appears Friday, July 31 at 8 p.m. at The Cabaret South Beach, 233 12th St. in Miami Beach. General admission is $25 and preferred seating is $35 at TheCabaretSouthBeach.com, with a two drink minimum.
EDITOR'S NOTE: On Thursday, July 23, The Cabaret South Beach closed and the July 31 scheduled performance by Levi Kreis was cancelled. Club owners are reportedly refunding previously purchased tickets.