Cabaret Review: LEVI KREIS: HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS TOUR (part of the Sand, Stars and Guitars Series at the Palm Springs Cultural Center)

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by Barry Schoenfeld on December 10, 2023

in Concerts / Events,Theater-Palm Springs (Coachella Valley)


Levi Kreis, the man from Oliver Springs, Tennessee, brought his 9th Annual Home for the Holidays Tour to the Palm Springs Cultural Center last weekend, and the stage he fully “inhabited” may never be the same.

With so many performers putting on a fake stage persona and executing robotic choreography, it was a real joy to be treated to the “real” Levi Kreis.  Even after touring for 30ish years (most recently in the musical Hadestown), his boyish sense of humor and wonder shot off the stage like a musical rocket, and whether it was a story about his idol Dolly Parton, or a story about his next song, he had his audience right in the palm of his hand for the full 2-hour concert.

And it was easy to see why Tony Award-winner Kreis was chosen to play Jerry Lee Lewis in Million Dollar Quartet … last Friday, December 8, he just couldn’t sit still, and barely even needed a piano bench. How he plays and sings so well while straddling the piano bench with both legs is remarkable. The man has undeniable charisma combined with a voice that makes him a force to be reckoned with.

As he went through his Christmas songbook – including the most remarkable versions of “Silent Night,” “Mr. Grinch,” “O Holy Night,” or “Hard Candy Christmas” – the audience got an entirely new appreciation for these songs. Kreis’s variations and interpretations, novel arrangements, and the versatility of his voice made each one sound entirely new. (He was so into the storytelling aspect of some of these songs, that he just rested his left elbow on the piano, and played the keyboard only with his right.)

The YouTube video for “O Holy Night” is beautiful, but it was his musical curiosity, his live riffs on his own arrangements, and his willingness to get back to the roots of these songs that made his versions so appealing. Nothing on YouTube compares with this live performance.

Palm Springs Cultural Center Executive Director Michael C. Green and his board must also be recognized for offering the Coachella Valley the all-new season of the Sand, Stars & Guitars series, of which this concert was a part.  Concerts continue through 2024, with Billy Droze & Gary Nichols scheduled on January 19, 2024.

Levi Kreis – Home for The Holidays Tour
part of the Sand, Stars and Guitars Series
Palm Springs Cultural Center, 2300 E Baristo Rd
reviewed December 8, 2023
for more info, visit Levi Kreis

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