San Francisco, (Seattle-adjacent) Everett, Nashville, and Lexington, KY are about to be treated to the same musical thrills and emotional chills that local audiences experienced last night at L.A.’s Renberg Theatre when Levi Kreis’s Broadway At The Keys Tour came to town.

 Taking its title from Kreis’ just-released collection of Broadway hits old and new, the singer-songwriter’s cross-country tour could just as easily have been called Songs In The Key Of Levi’s Life, as it takes the Million Dollar Quartet Tony Award winner from his small-town Oliver Springs, Tennessee roots to the Broadway stage … and now to “a city near you.”

With a voice to angels weep, audiences scream, and Tony voters mark their ballots in his favor, drop-dead-gorgeous man-in-black Kreis not only tickles the ivories like nobody’s business, he does so straddling the piano bench to make eye-contact with his audience all through the show, his fingers somewhere to the left of him, his barefoot left foot at the pedal where any other piano player’s right foot would be.

Autobiographical anecdotes told in Kreis’s irresistible Tennessee drawl take Levi back to a Bible-thumping upbringing (”We thought the Southern Baptists were liberal”) that taught a devout preteen that his same-sex impulses were the worst sin imaginable.

No wonder then that it took Kreis years to get over self-imposed conversion therapy, reveal his truth to his sports-and-hunting-loving dad and Brenda Lee-loving mom, face their ensuing rejection, and come out today (no pun intended) with both parents among his biggest fans.

Songs by Patsy Cline, Bonnie Raitt, Ray Charles, and Kreis himself accompany the recording-&-musical theater star from an L.A. audition that scored a fresh-off-the-bus Tennessee boy his first national tour (as Rent’s drug-addicted, HIV-positive Roger) to his debut CD (recorded in a hour with the only $200 he had to his name) to his coming out on a national scale to playing Jerry Lee in Broadway’s Million Dollar Quartet.

And speaking of the Great White Way, you haven’t heard Sweeney Todd’s “Not While I’m Around,” Pippin’s “Corner Of The Sky,” or Aladdin’s “Friend Like Me” till you’ve heard them sung Kreis-style with piano arrangements so rich, you won’t miss a full orchestra, not even for a second, and if you’re in the mood for a taste of what won Kreis his Tony statuette, there will be a “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.”

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical’s Broadway-hit status allows Kreis to include a fellow singer-songwriter’s “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” and a bit of wishful thinking means he can close the show with “Wind Beneath My Wings,” from the still “pre-Broadway” Beaches The Musical. (Get out your hankies.)

With only a handful of one-nighters remaining on Kreis’s Broadway At The Keys Tour, those lucky enough to hold tickets can count themselves fortunate indeed. I’m certainly glad I was one of L.A.’s lucky ones.

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Renberg Theatre at the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Village at Ed Gould Plaza, 1125 N. McCadden Place, Hollywood

–Steven Stanley
August 19, 2017

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