After A 40-Year Broadway Career, Kecia Lewis Gets Her First Tony Nomination For ‘Hell’s Kitchen’

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In the Broadway musical Hell’s Kitchen, Kecia Lewis portrays Miss. Liza Jane, a mentor and piano teacher to 17-year-old Ali. Ali, played by Maleah Joi Moon, is inspired by the music and life experiences of Alicia Keys, longing to break free from her mother’s grasp and explore the world beyond their Manhattan Plaza apartment in Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood.

Miss. Liza Jane, referred to as “the heart, soul, and conscience of the building,” is a precious gem who nurtures Ali’s passion and instills in her a profound sense of strength and inner wisdom.

Balancing nurturing with firm guidance, Miss. Liza Jane empowers Ali by acknowledging her struggles but refusing to let them overcome her. She aids Ali in finding her wings. After an illustrious 40-year Broadway journey, Lewis earned her first Tony nomination for Hell’s Kitchen. The production, currently at the Shubert Theatre, garnered 13 Tony nominations in total. Lewis has also been honored with the Lucille Lortel, Outer Critics Circle, and Drama Desk awards.

Having made her Broadway debut in Dreamgirls at 18 after attending the High School of Performing Arts, Lewis shares that portraying Miss. Liza Jane allows her to evoke memories of the mentors, teachers, and inspirations present in everyone’s lives. She expresses gratitude for the mentors she has had and the impact they have had on her personal and professional growth.

Jeryl Brunner: What were your initial thoughts upon learning about Hell’s Kitchen and the potential opportunity to be part of the production?

Kecia Lewis: I first heard about Hell’s Kitchen from the show’s director, Michael Greif, with whom I have had a longstanding professional relationship. Having known Michael since our collaboration on Big River in 1986, I was intrigued when he approached me in early 2021 for a reading. The unfolding journey with Hell’s Kitchen, spearheaded by Alicia Keys over 11 years, marked a remarkable departure from my previous experiences.

Brunner: Miss. Liza Jane serves as the emotional core of Hell’s Kitchen, opening new horizons for Ali. How do you relate to her character?

Lewis: I resonate with Miss. Liza Jane as a mentor, a role I have embraced for years, guiding young talents in singing, acting, and life coaching. Interacting with the young cast members, most making their Broadway debuts, at the theater provides me with the opportunity to offer insights and advice, a privilege I cherish deeply in the industry.

Brunner: Can you recall the moment you knew performing was your calling?

Lewis: From a young age, having watched TV shows like The Carol Burnett Show that evoked joy and escapism, I felt drawn to performing. Witnessing performers bring laughter and delight, I aspired to emulate that exhilarating experience for others.

Brunner: Where were you when you received news of your Tony nomination?

Lewis: The cast gathered virtually for the Tony nominations announcement. As the nominations unfolded, the overwhelming joy and excitement culminated in tears of happiness upon hearing my name. The camaraderie and shared jubilation with my castmates made the moment truly special.

Brunner: The entertainment industry is demanding. What motivated you during challenging times?

Lewis: Drawing strength from my faith through daily prayer and the unwavering support of loved ones fortified my resilience during adversity. Encouragement from friends and peers dissuaded me from veering off course, reminding me of my passion for performing.

Brunner: I understand you raised your son as a single mother. How did creativity sustain you during uncertain times?

Lewis: As a single parent, facing work uncertainties led me to craft a self-written cabaret, providing a creative outlet that resonated with audiences. Collaborating with friends and fellow performers not only showcased my talent but also rejuvenated my spirit, demonstrating the power of creativity during challenges.

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