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Former Oliver Springs man wins Tony

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By The Staff

By CINDY SIMPSON

csimpson@roanecounty.com

It would be more than enough for most people to perform at the Tony Awards, but a former Oliver Springs resident did that and took away the Tony for best performance by a featured actor in a musical.

Levi Kreis performed many of his signature songs from his winning role as Jerry Lee Lewis in Million Dollar Quartet before hearing his name called as the winner.

“It was an exciting evening with the emotions involved,” said his mother, Connie Kries, who attended with her husband and Levi’s father, Ronnie. “We were proud, but yet we were in a daze and shocked. It was like another world.”

When he won, we both were in tears,” she said.

Levi, in his acceptance speech, told them it was a good thing they attended.

“The media had predicted  (his win), but you don’t ever go with predictions,” his proud mother said. “He’s not been part of the Broadway community a long time. To go in and win the Tony voters over is very rare.”

“We knew right away he has something special, that God had given him a gift of playing and singing both,” Ronnie added. “His winning proves I’m not just a proud parent! He’s an awesome performer.”

The play was nominated for Tony awards in two categories.

Million Dollar Quartet is based on the recording session that brought together Elivis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins.

Ronnie Kreis said his son and the rest of the cast performed multiple times at the award ceremony.

Levi Kreis played piano with host Sean Hayes.

The  cast’s other performances included a medley that combined songs such as  “Down by the Riverside,”  “Let’s Have a Party Tonight” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.”

The Kreises said the days leading up the big ceremony were hectic.

“He (Levi) had five hours of rehersal the day of the Tonies. He only had four hours at home before he had to be at the Tonies,” Connie Kreis said.

The Kreises didn’t walk the carpet with their son but were dropped off at the VIP door.

They were able to attend a party with him afterward.  There, they had the opportunity to meet other celebrities, including Daniel Ratcliffe of Harry Potter fame.

Kreis, who once played gospel music locally, especially at his home church of Mount Pisgah Baptist Church, now plays to much larger crowds in his Broadway role, shaking and playing the piano just as Lewis once did.

Ronnie said his son can jump on the piano, play backward and perform much like the legendary entertainer.

His parents love the play.

“We’ve seen it about 50 times,” Ronnie said. This weekend they also got to see Memphis, which won the Tony for best musical.