BWW Interview: Kenyon Phillips Discusses THE LIFE + DEATH OF KENYON PHILLIPS
Kenyon Phillips will be returning to Joes Pub on Friday, October 24 to reprise his sold-out performance of The Life + Death of Kenyon Phillips. The show is is a rock opera that uses an immersive rock-cabaret-variety show format to explore the past, present and future of downtown performance artist Kenyon Phillips. In addition to Kenyon and his all-girl backing band, The Ladies In Waiting, the cast includes cultural critic and nightlife personality Michael Musto, actress Rachel Ticotin (TOTAL RECALL), former CNBC reporter Asa Aarons, and a host of acrobats, burlesquers, magicians, and other shining stars from the NY underground. Heavily influenced by Max Ophül's LOLA MONTES, Fellini's 8 1/2 and the entire John Waters canon, THE LIFE + DEATH OF KENYON PHILLIPS is a hilarious and sometimes heartbreaking examination of identity, responsibility and truth.
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Kenyon took the time to share some of his thoughts on the evolution of his show, what he'll be up to next, and more with BroadwayWorld. Read below for the full interview!
Congrats on returning to Joe's Pub! Did you initially have any idea the show would be as successful as it has become?Thank you! I really had no idea, to be perfectly honest. It was all a giant experiment, and I was just hoping people wouldn't throw tomatoes. Or excrement. But I can't tell you how incredible it was to play to a sold-out house - and to have so many people come up to me afterwards and tell me that they were moved by the show. If I can reach just one person in the audience, then I've done my job.You said the inspiration for The Life + Death of Kenyon Phillips was to take the idea of "here's my life story -- and throw a grenade at it." What was the process of creating the show like? Harrowing! I basically made a timeline of identity-forming moments in my life - most of which were traumatic - and tried to weave them into a two-hour entertainment. Whenever a particular memory or experience got too painful, I'd turn it into a song and dance number. Or a circus act. Performance has always been a coping mechanism for me, so I guess this show was conceived as one giant coping mechanism. Not just for myself, but for the audience. The grenade came in handy with regards to format. And destruction. Instead of this being a life story, it's a life and death story. I wanted to show how all these things that we go through can kill us a little bit at a time, while taking responsibility for the fact that, ultimately, it's up to us whether we want to live or die. We always have a choice, even when it feels like we don't. What is your favorite part about performing this show? The music. I'm primarily a musician, so I'm happiest when I'm singing. But I also love collaborating with the cast and crew. Everyone involved is incredibly talented, and it brings me such pleasure to see what they come up with. Often it's stuff that I never would have thought of.What do you hope audiences take away from The Life + Death of Kenyon Phillips? More than anything, I hope that they're entertained. I want them to be swept up by the music, transported by the performers, and shocked and challenged by the storyline. I want them to feel like anything can happen in that wonderful little room that is Joe's Pub. I also hope that they can look at my issues and feel better about their own. The message is simple: We all come with baggage, but that baggage doesn't have to define who we are. By accepting where we come from, we can enjoy where we are. Do you have any other upcoming projects or performances you can tell us about? This fall, I'll be workshopping an immersive rock opera with Randy Weiner (SLEEP NO MORE, QUEEN OF THE NIGHT, THE DONKEY SHOW). I can't tell you too much about it, but I'm excited. I'll also be testing some new songs out at intimate venues around town, like Norwood.
Dubbed "the love child of Luther Vandross and Steven Tyler" by Michael Musto, Kenyon Phillips knows how to put on a show. The wildly theatrical singer, songwriter, actor, writer, model, dancer, and DJ has been busy "being there, doing that" all over New York City since the days of Y2K. In addition to founding and fronting the bands Roma! and Unisex Salon and contributing lead vocals to Thrill A Minute, Kenyon has written and produced songs for Amy Poehler, Joey Arias, Raven O, and Sherry Vine; moonlighted as emcee of notorious vaudeville nightclub The Box; performed with renowned "punk ballerina" and choreographer Karole Armitage; and appeared as a silhouetted dancer in multiple campaigns for the Apple iPod. As he puts it, "There are very few things that I won't do for money." Backed by his all-girl band The Ladies In Waiting, Kenyon's latest stage incarnation is a blend of glam rock, surrealist theater and cabaret that's bolstered by surprise appearances from an array of downtown celebs. With influences ranging from Roxy Music to "Thriller"-era Michael Jackson, Kenyon's sound tends to err on the dancier side of glam. His songs have been featured on several network and cable television programs, including "Shameless" on Showtime, "Eleventh Hour" on CBS, and "The Mighty B!" on Nickelodeon. His debut solo EP Fire In The Hole was released in September 2013, and was helmed by multi-platinum award-winning producer, mixer and songwriter David Bendeth (Paramore, Papa Roach, Breaking Benjamin, Cowboy Junkies, Crash Test Dummies, IMA Robot). TheKenyonPhillips.com