(*homocinematically inclined)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Reverend's Interview: A Performer Who's No Idiot

Green Day's 2004, Grammy-winning album American Idiot provided something of a narrative in its rockin' critique of the Bush-era, post-9/11 USA. The CD's credits even refer to the band's bisexual front man/lyricist Billie Joe Armstrong as "starring" in the piece, so it wasn't much of a surprise when plans were announced to adapt it as a stage musical. The visually stunning, Tony Award-winning hit will be having its Orange County premiere May 29th-June 3rd at the Segerstrom Center.

Kelvin Moon Loh performs in the ensemble and serves as understudy for Will, one of the lead characters in this abstract, largely sung-through tale of three brash young American friends who end up taking different paths to maturity. The 28-year old triple threat from Long Island is also the only openly gay member of the touring cast, as well as its only fully Asian-American participant. He spoke with Reverend during the show's recently-concluded L.A. run.

"Every night, I feel tremendous pressure to represent my (gay and Asian-American) communities," Moon Loh laughed before getting more serious. "This show is right up my alley. I was a big fan of Green Day before, and I love contemporary musical theatre."

The production is directed by Michael Mayer, who has become the go-to theatrical chronicler of this generation's angst between American Idiot and the acclaimed original staging of Spring Awakening. "To my knowledge, there have only been four other openly gay artists involved in the show's history," Moon Loh revealed. They include Mayer and choreographer Steven Hoggett.

Moon Loh has been part of the tour since shortly after last Christmas, and was cast following tours of the more Asian-influenced musicals Miss Saigon and The King and I. "Been there, done that," he writes amusingly of these turns in his American Idiot program bio. Nabbing his current role, though, was no easy task. "I got called in to audition, and had to play guitar and sing two contemporary songs," Moon Loh said of the process. (Every member of the cast plays guitar together on stage -- impressively -- during the show's climax.) "Then I got called back for a dance audition, then final callbacks."

GLBT theatregoers may not think of Green Day and American Idiot as being of particular interest to our community, despite Armstrong's admitted bisexuality. Think again. "It completely speaks to the GLBT audience," according to Moon Loh, "because it speaks to the outcast, to those who don't fit in." He continued, "The characters in the show don't want the idea of being normal forced on them; (the musical) gives voice to the minorities."

In addition to acting, singing and dancing, Moon Loh is also a free-lance musical librettist as well as a Marvel Comics enthusiast. He most recently co-wrote Matchmaker, Matchmaker, a musical comedy about Internet dating. He doesn't have any acting roles beyond American Idiot lined up, but he still has three months with the tour. "That's the actor's life," Moon Loh said with both resignation and optimism in his voice.

In the meantime, he is enjoying his time on the road. "I'm single and ready to mingle," Moon Loh declared of his relationship status. He asked this Southern California-based interviewer where the gay hot spots in Orange County are, and I first and foremost recommended (only half-jokingly) the Disneyland Resort. Perhaps you saw him if you happened to visit "the happiest place on Earth" over this past Memorial Day weekend.

Moon Loh directed me before ending our conversation to tell readers that "American Idiot has really pretty people in it, men and women, plus awesome singing and dancing." After seeing Kelvin & Company during the LA stop of their tour, I can't recommend the musical highly enough.

Interview by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.

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