TONY AWARD® winner Levi Kreis to star in new musical Pure Country from Theatere Under The Stars

By: Lisa Holmes
| Published 02/25/2020

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HOUSTON — Theatre Under The Stars (TUTS) is excited to announce that Tony Award winner Levi Kreis will star as “Dusty” in the new musical Pure Country. Under the development of TUTS, the musical is being adapted for the stage from the beloved 1992 film starring George Strait.

“It is so wonderful for TUTS to not only be able to bring in Broadway stars for this production, but ones who bring with them authentic Country and southern roots,” said Dan Knechtges, TUTS Artistic Director, and the Director & Choreographer of Pure Country. “The addition of Levi Kreiss who gave a stunning, Tony-award-winning performance as Jerry Lee Lewis in Million Dollar Quartet, and Sally Mayes, a local Houstonian who went on to become a Broadway legend, is tremendous. Levi and Sally add a high level of artistry and authenticity to Pure Country making it an unmissable Houston event.”

Pure Country is the brand new Texas-themed musical with music by Steve Dorff, book by Rex McGee, and lyrics by John Bettis. It is based on the Warner Bros. film, Pure Country, written by Rex McGee. The musical tells the tale of a jaded country music mega-star who suddenly walks away from his successful yet joyless career to return to his roots and rediscover his passion for life, love, and music. Including the chart-topping hits "I Cross My Heart" and “Heartland,” as well as new music written for the stage, this theatrical event is sure to be a hot ticket in the Lone Star State!

“While Pure Country is a celebration of Texas culture, it also has a universal message about the importance of home, both in terms of geography as well as the inherent human need to manifest our true passions, even when the world has other expectations of us,” Knechtges. “I’m also excited that TUTS is able to play this pivotal role in the development of this new musical, which is a renewed commitment to our heritage of fostering new works.”

Along with Kreis, the cast features Stephanie Gibson as “Harley,” Felicia Finley as “Lula,” Matt DeAngelis as “Earl,” Sally Mayes as “Mama Ivy,” Mark Price as “Marty,” and Doug Atkins as “Charlie.”

Rounding out Ensemble are: Brittany Halen, Logan Keslar, Charles Mitchell, Shea Renne, Katie Stuckey, Nick Szoeke, Christopher Tipps, LaBraska Washington, Ryan Winkler, Katja Rivera Yanko, and Kevin Zak.

As previously announced, Pure Country, is directed and choreographed by Dan Knechtges. Music Supervision and Arrangements by Charlie Alterman; Michael Holland, will create the new Orchestrations. The design team consists of Christine Peters, Scenic Designer; Colleen Grady, Costume Designer; Ryan O’Gara, Lighting Designer; Andrew Harper, Sound Designer; and Greg Emetaz, Projections Designer. Casting for Pure Country is provided by Associate Artistic Director, Megan Larche Dominick, CSA.

Biographies:

LEVI KREIS (Dusty) originated the role of Jerry Lee Lewis in Broadway’s Million Dollar Quartet, winning the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical and the Outer Critics Circle Award. Other notable credits include the Tony nominated Broadway revival of Violet, Smokey Joe’s Cafe and the national tour of Rent. In film, Levi supported Matthew McConaughey in Frailty and recently starred in A Very Sordid Wedding and The Divide. Levi’s original music has been featured in “So You Think You Can Dance,” “Sons of Anarchy,” “The Vampire Diaries” and more. He has nine albums to date.

DOUG ATKINS (Charlie) A proud Houston "local" by way of Pennsylvania, Doug was last seen at TUTS as Willie Conklin in Ragtime. Atkins has performed Buyer & Cellar across the country and has also been seen regionally in Daddy Long Legs (Jervis), West Side Story (Action), Hello, Dolly! (Cornelius), Psycho Beach Party (Chicklet), and the World Premiere adaptation of The Hiding Place (Otto).

MATT DEANGELIS (Earl) Broadway: Waitress (Earl), HAIR (Woof) West End: HAIR (Woof) 1st Natl Tours: Waitress (Earl), Once (Svec), American Idiot (Rep. from Jingletown), HAIR (Woof) TV: “Person of Interest”, “Madam Secretary”, “Daredevil”, “Evil”, “For Life”, “Chicago PD.” Co-owner of The Working Studio, an audition/acting coaching studio.

FELICIA FINLEY (Lula) is thrilled to be returning to TUTS! Felicia made her Broadway debut in the TONY nominated, Smokey Joe’s Café. She was in the Original Broadway productions of Cy Coleman’s The Life, Lippa’s The Wild Party (MTC), Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin, and Forbidden Broadway. Felicia won critical praise for her performance as Amneris in Broadway’s Aida and Tanya in Mamma Mia! Other credits include: How to Succeed... and Mamma Mia! (TUTS), Catch Me If You Can (5th Avenue), Disaster! (Off-Broadway), Fall Springs (Barrington Stage), Songbird (Two River), All Shook Up (MUNY), Saved (Kansas City Rep), American In Paris (Alley Theatre), Damn Yankees (Opposite Andre’ De Shields), Happy Days (National Tour as Pinky Tuscadero), as well as productions at Encore’s City Center, Goodspeed, Papermill Playhouse, Ogunquit Playhouse, John W Engeman Theater and Playwright’s Horizons. Awards include for New York’s Bistro Award for Best Cabaret, Drama League’s Most Distinguished Performer, NJ’s Best Actress and The Ensemblist Award for Songbird. She’s had concerts at Joe’s Pub, Feinstein’s 54 Below, Town Hall, Roseland Ballroom, Bryant Park, and The Green Room 42.

STEPHANIE GIBSON (Harley) has been seen on Broadway as Gabrielle in Cinderella, Cherry Sundae in Charlie & the Chocolate Factory as well as The Addams Family and Spamalot. She was seen at Feinstein/54below in her sold out original one woman comedy show, Glitter, Goblets & Gatos. Favorite TV/Film include: “Happy!” (Pixley), “Person of Interest”, “Up All Night”, “The Union”. Dates, Mates & Clean Slates (web. written by & starring Steph and Julie Lubeck) Other favorites: Maggie - Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, dir. Judith Ivey - Baltimore Center Stage, A Chorus Line (National Tour), Into the Woods (TUTS), Cabaret, Young Frankenstein, and Rocky Horror Show.

SALLY MAYES (Mama Ivy) Broadway: Welcome To The Club (Theatre World and Outer Critics circle nomination), She Loves Me (Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle nominations), Urban Cowboy (Drama Desk nomination), Steel Magnolias. Off-Broadway: Closer Than Ever (Outer Critics Circle nomination), and Das Barbecue, Pete N' Keely (Drama Desk nomination), Good Old Girls, The Best Is Yet To Come, Play It Cool. National Tour: Dirty Blonde. Film/Television: City Hall, Bye Bye Birdie, Alpha House, Law and Order Criminal Intent, Sex and the City, The Job, and Almost Family. Five solo recordings and countless cast albums.

MARK PRICE (Marty) Broadway: Mary Poppins, All Shook Up, Wonderful Town, Rocky Horror Show, Mamma Mia!, Dance of the Vampires, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, The Capeman, and Chicago. Regional: Clue (Cleveland Play House), Mamma Mia (TUTS), The 39 Steps (Alley Theatre), The Producers (Paper Mill Playhouse), The Cottage (Theatre Aspen), Lend Me A Tenor (Paper Mill Playhouse), Assassins (Milwaukee Rep), Into The Woods (Alliance Theater), Sondheim Celebration (Lincoln Center), Sweeney Todd (Kennedy Center-Helen Hayes nomination). Film & T.V. “Murphy Brown”, “The Good Wife”, “Law & Order”. www.aboutmarkprice.com

BRITTANY HALEN (Ensemble) is ecstatic to be returning to TUTS! Previous TUTS credits include The Rocky Horror Show, Reefer Madness, Yankee Doodle Dandy, White Christmas, Guys and Dolls, and Urban Cowboy. Other regional credits include: Mad Cow Theatre’s Once and The Spitfire Grill, TheatreZone’s Me & My Girl and George M!, Alley Theatre’s Around The World in 80 Days, Queensbury Theatre’s Sideshow and Elf, Stages Repertory Theatre’s Mack and Mabel and Failure: A Love Story, and Main Street Theatre’s Civil War Christmas. Brittany is also an alumni of the TUTS Humphreys School of Musical Theatre! BrittanyHalen.com

LOGAN KESLAR (Associate Choreographer / Ensemble) Pure Country marks Logan’s 30th TUTS production, appearing this season in A Chorus Line(Bobby) and Elf. Bway: Tony Award-winning La Cage (Original Cast Recording, 1st National); West End: West Side Story 50th Anniversary Production; Hollywood Bowl: Into the Woods (Assoc. Choreographer). Regional: Papermill, Maltz-Jupiter, Riverside Theatre, Kansas City Starlight, HGO. TV: “TONY Awards”, “Today Show”, “GMA”, “Regis and Kelly”.

CHARLES MITCHELL (Ensemble) is making his TUTS debut! Charles is in his last semester of his undergrad at Sam Houston State University. Favorite credits include Oklahoma! (Jud Fry); Assassins (Samuel Byck); A Macbeth (Macduff); His film credits include American Fishtrap (Rick, Rival Studios). Favorite directing credits: Sweat by Lynn Nottage. Charles plays trumpet and was also a state champion powerlifter.

SHEA RENNE (Ensemble) Broadway: Allegiance (Betsy Tanaka). Regional: Here Lies Love (Seattle Repertory Theatre), South Pacific (Maltz Jupiter Theatre, Cape Playhouse, Music Theatre Wichita), The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Mamma Mia!, Little Shop of Horrors, Footloose (Fulton Theatre), Seussical the Musical (The Muny), Spring Awakening (Hangar Theatre), West Side Story (Music Theatre Wichita). She is a proud graduate of the University of Michigan.

KATIE STUCKEY (Ensemble) is a Houston local and is excited to be making her TUTS debut. Favorite credits include Regional: Thelma in A Trip to Bountiful (Human Race Theater), Deirdre in I Hate Hamlet (Human Race Theater). She wrote and played the title role in Wake Up, Mama I and II (Match). As a singer/songwriter she was selected to showcase at SXSW and was voted Best Female Vocalist by Houston Press. Film and TV credits include, “My Name is Earl” and “Puncture”. Katie is a graduate of Cincinnati Conservatory of Music - BFA Acting.

NICK SZOEKE (Ensemble) is thrilled to return to the TUTS stage in this brand new production! Nick has been seen on stages around the US in great regional houses such Theatre Under The Stars (TX), The Public Theatre (TX), The Playhouse San Antonio (TX), Queensbury Theatre (TX), Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre (ID), and The Trinity Repertory Company (RI). Favorite credits include Curly in Oklahoma, Robert Kincaid in The Bridges of Madison County, and Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Insta:@hokeypokeyszoeke www.nickszoeke.com

CHRISTOPHER TIPPS (Ensemble) is happy to be making his return to the TUTS stage in this new work. Previously seen as Pepper in Mamma Mia, other credits: Elf: The Musical, Jerome Robbins’ Broadway, Memphis, The Wiz!. (TUTS) Regional Credits : Lyle, Footloose! The Musical (MUNY).

LABRASKA WASHINGTON (Ensemble) is ready to two-step into Pure Country. Previous Credits include: The Fantasticks (Stages), ELF (TUTS), Seussical (TUTS), Ragtime (TUTS), The Wiz (TUTS), God’s Favorite (AD Players):

RYAN WINKLER (Ensemble) TUTS Debut! Other favorite credits include: Potsdam Music Theatre's Chicago (Liz), Surflight Theatre's Tis' The Season, AIDA Cruise Lines (AIDAnova). Proud Pace University Commercial Dance graduate.

KATJA RIVERA YANKO (Ensemble) A Houston native, she is ecstatic to be returning to TUTS! Favorite credits include Footloose (Wendy Jo, The Muny), In the Heights (Daniela, MT Wichita), Spring Awakening (Thea, TUTS), Dogfight (Rose, OU). She is a recent graduate of The University of Oklahoma and is now currently based out of New York City.

KEVIN ZAK (Ensemble) is thrilled to be at TUTS! National Tours: Waitress, CATS. Off-bway: Clinton the Musical (Lucille Lortel Nom.), Neurosis, Katie Thompson's R.R.R.E.D., Silence! The Musical. Regional: The MUNY, Goodspeed Musicals. @kevinjzak

Pure Country is based on the Warner Bros. film, Pure Country, written by Rex McGee. The musical is produced by special arrangement with Warner Bros and by special arrangement with Prairie Rose Productions.

Pure Country runs April 14 through 26 at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets start at just $40, and are available online at TUTS.com, or by contacting the TUTS Box Office by phone at (713) 558-8887 or in person by visiting the Box Office located at 800 Bagby Street.

This production of Pure Country is made possible thanks to the generous support of production sponsors, ConocoPhillips, Apache, and Freeport LNG.

Theatre Under The Stars is grateful to our 2019/20 Season Sponsors: Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, United Airlines, KTRK ABC-13, and Hampton Inn / Homewood Suites Downtown Houston. TUTS is supported in part by the City of Houston through the Theater District, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Texas Commission on the Arts.