Kelvin Moon Loh is a musical-theater triple threat who began singing, dancing and acting while attending school in Long Island and dreaming of being in a Broadway show. After coming out as gay, he moved to the City to study at New York University; he’s been performing ever since, with the occasional table-waiting gig in between. You can now see Loh, who’s appeared in heralded productions of The King and I and American Idiot, as the frenzied newscaster Perch Perkins in the new Broadway musical SpongeBob SquarePants. He was kind enough to take time to chat with us about his experiences as an openly gay Broadway performer, his inspiring journey and the impact the LGBTQ+ community has had on the theater world.
Tell us about the first time you performed in New York City.
Kelvin Moon Loh: My first big job in New York was at the Public Theater in David Byrne’s Here Lies Love, directed by Alex Timbers. For that to be my introduction to the NYC theater community was bananas! It was an incredible piece of theater with such amazing artists. The production was just down the street from the NYU campus, so it was a constant reminder of the journey it took for me to be a working actor in NYC.
How is NYC different from other places you’ve lived?
KML: The only time I’ve lived outside of NYC was during the months I was on the first national tour of American Idiot. I had an extraordinary experience seeing the entire country, but I missed being home in NYC. New York is a place where you can seriously have it all at any hour of any day. And most of it is within walking distance. I hate to be the guy who says that New York City is the center of the universe, but as a New Yorker, I feel like it is my duty and my privilege to say so.
What are some places in NYC that inspire you as an artist?
KML: Broadway, Broadway, Broadway. When I was at NYU, I had the opportunity to work on the theater staff for many Broadway shows. It’s where I got to see live performances by Patti LuPone, Mandy Patinkin, Sutton Foster, Heather Headley, Christine Ebersole, Bernadette Peters and Norm Lewis, to name a few. It was the best place to be inspired and learn from professionals themselves. Being in the room with these people singing live with a real orchestra is simply priceless. That’s something YouTube could never capture!
What’s been your most embarrassing moment as a performer?
KML: During a performance of the The King and I, during the song “I Have Dreamed,” a duet with Tuptim, I’m supposed to rush toward her and finish singing the duet. Well, the costume design included a cape. As I ran toward her, I became tangled, and the next thing I knew, I was singing flat on my back with my foot caught in the cape. We finished the song but the final pose was more horizontal than what was originally blocked.
What impact has the LGBTQ+ community had on the theater world in NYC?
KML: Would there be a theater world without the LGBTQ+ community? I think a lot of theater is created to express the viewpoints of marginalized communities. Without the amazing storytelling of LGBTQ+ artists, we wouldn’t have some of the greatest stories ever told onstage. What would my life be without Angels In America or La Cage aux Folles? Certainly it wouldn’t be as rich. Perhaps without seeing people onstage with an LGBTQ+ point of view, I would have never entered the business.
How can LGBTQ+ travelers support LGBTQ+ performers and shows in the City?
KML: Go to the theater. Write about the theater you went to. Tell your friends to go to the theater. Yes, there is a lot of content in the online world but theater is something you can’t bottle or record. Every night you go to the theater, it is unique. You will never have the same audience sharing the same night with you. That moment cannot truly be 100 percent recreated.
What show do you want to see during this winter's NYC Broadway Week?
KML: This is not self-promotion, but I really would love to see the show I’m in. Performing in the show eight times a week, I can only see it from my vantage point on stage. I would love the opportunity to take in SpongeBob SquarePants and see all the beauty from all angles. My cast is full of amazing artists (I call them “unicorns”), and I wish I could watch it 26 times so I can follow each beautiful human. I would also love to hear Christy Altomare’s beautiful voice in Anastasia, and of course, see my true hero, Lea Salonga, in Once on This Island.
Do you have any tips for people coming to see a Broadway show for the first time?
KML: Make plans ahead of time and try to get your tickets directly from the box office. Also, make an evening of going to the theater and meeting for cocktails before or after at one of the amazing piano bars in Midtown like Don’t Tell Mama. Approach the night with an open heart and I promise the NYC theater scene will pay you back tenfold.