• Natalie Wisdom

Kent M. Lewis, Professional Actor/Musician.

{Interview Date: December 2, 2020]


Photo Credit: Johnny Knight


Billy Elliot National Tour, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang National Tour, Jeff Award Nominee for Ring of Fire at the Mercury Theatre in Chicago and more.


Where were you on March 12, 2020, the day Broadway shut down? And what was the week leading up to it like?


I was in Rochester, New York doing a show I love: Once. I had been keeping up with the virus facts through various online sources. I boisterously told the cast “We’re all going to get it, and we’re all going to be fine.”


What did the theatre do when Broadway shut down in the middle of your run?


Thursday night, we did our last show for a paying audience, and we had a socially-distanced small audience of invited guests come for a video-taped performance that the theatre then shared with people with existing tickets. The show was a co-production with Syracuse Stage. Syracuse Stage, at first, postponed their production, generously offering us housing in the interim, but alas, the show never got to Syracuse, and the producers lost their investment.


Did you initially anticipate that Broadway and other theatre productions would be closed for this long?

No. I was surprised it shut down at all.


What have you been doing over the past year or so to stay sane? What has helped you the most?


I have a partner who is also in the business, and her show closed about the same time. And without her, I don’t know what I would’ve done. We both took on creative projects, using peripheral talents that we have, that fulfill us. We’re making the most of the time. She’s writing books and earning another college degree.

I’m working on a musical-telling of the story of the Mama’s and the Papa’s called California Dreamers. And the shut-down gave me the time, energy, and inclination to work on that project. And perhaps more conveniently, other actor friends and creative types were more available to me to help me do workshops and readings and really explore the material in ways that might not have been possible, otherwise.


What has been the hardest thing about the past months since the shutdown?


I think there’s a spontaneity to life when you’re in a larger community, where you can affect a greater number of people and be affected by a greater number of people. So, when there is no shut down, new projects are coming up, or theatres are announcing auditions and opportunities. It’s always “Anything Can Happen Day,” and while that doesn’t guarantee you’ll have the opportunity to work and create, there’s always a chance. And when there’s no chance of joining others; that’s especially challenging for the soul of an artist who likes to collaborate and be inspired by others.


What positives, if any, do you think have come out of this time of quarantine?


Hopefully, the time spent on California Dreamers will come to fruition. I think, like anything else, when you come close to losing something or being separated from something you love, you tend to realize how much it means to you.


What do you miss the most about live theatre?


That would be the audience. You can do everything else; put on a show with people with masks or on Zoom. You could even socially distance and do things. But if you don’t have an audience, it’s not the same. It’s like acting class. It has merit. There’s a purpose to it, but what makes a show a show is an audience.


What’s your favorite theatre memory?


So many to choose from! Here’s two: I remember the joy of finding a communal groove eight times a week singing, “We do not heed your dismal sound, for joy reigns everywhere around,” in the Drury Lane South production of The Hot Mikado. In the 1st national tour of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, I was blessed with an unforgettable magic moment of connection; material, actors, audience, all one. A beautiful moment hanging in the air. And we were all at the mercy of the child actor whose line was next. And with perfect grace, she stayed connected to me, to the material, the moment, and stayed in that delicate little pocket breathing in, breathing out until the audience spontaneously burst into applause at a point in the show that they never had before. I will never forget that.


In addition to being an actor, you are also a musician. How has this time affected your music and your creation of music?


I don’t know that I’ve written anything original in this time. I’ve been working on the Dreamers script to highlight the work of someone else. And I have some ideas for cabarets and things, but I think, perhaps, I might need to get out of this cave and be at the other end of the tunnel to feel like expressing it. I feel, right now, too much of my feelings are too immediate to be able to sit back and emote in song. I’m so anxious to be living life; it feels like the wrong time to sit back and sing about how I’m feeling.


What advice do you have for young Broadway hopefuls during this time?


Do what you can.



Lightning Round:


Favorite Broadway Musical: The Music Man

Favorite Broadway Play: Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime

Favorite role you’ve played: Today, it’s Sky Masterson

Dream role: Harold Hill

Favorite Movie Musical: Singin in the Rain

Movie that you think should be a musical: The Apple Dumpling Gang.

Favorite Broadway Theatre Ritual and/or tradition: I stole this from Dale Benson: Right after places, I open an outside door and get three good breaths of air to take with me onstage.

Favorite Instrument: Baritone Ukulele

Favorite Musical Instrument that you don’t play: I sort of play the cello, but if you put me next to an actual cellist, I would say, “I don’t play the cello,” so I’ll say cello.

Item on tour you can’t live without: Foam roller




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