1984 was a watershed year for me. By 1980 I had done my first National Tour and Broadway show by the age of 22, but now I had come to a brick wall and didn’t know how to move forward and I couldn’t get a job. Enter Kevin Gray. We were both performing in “Kismet” along with our friend George Lee Andrews up at the Elmhurst Dinner Theatre. Kevin was playing the Caliph, I was his understudy. We became fast friends - he was always encouraging everybody in the cast including me. It was a great cast which included Beverly Lambert and Carolee Carmello.
He was a friend to everyone - this in the midst of having the responsibility of performing and singing this big role. One day just before the show closed, Kevin approached me about the upcoming auditions for the revival of “Pacific Overtures.” He told me that they had done the show in workshop at the 92nd Street Y, but that were going to hold auditions for the upcoming NY production. He said, “You’d be perfect for it John - but you’ve got to have an agents submission.” That wasn’t going to work for me because I didn’t have one. Somehow I got into the audition and lo and behold I got one of the leading roles - Manjiro - the fisherman turned Samurai.
And the best part - Kevin was my leading man! He couldn’t have been more supportive, more encouraging and more helpful. This was Kevin’s first leading role on the NY stage and this as a big deal for him - we were working with Stephen Sondheim, all the NY critics were coming. But Kevin’s main concern was how I was doing. “Did I want to run lines?” “Did I want to go over the duet we sang?” He knew that I was nervous. It was my first leading role - I was as nervous as hell. Kevin knew that. And as nervous as he was, he was concerned about me and the other cast members. That was Kevin Gray! Always thinking about others. He wanted everyone to be great. His desire was that you find the great moments and if you could find them together - even better.
Our duet, “Poems”, a Haiku inspired song about “My lady love” turned into a tour de force for us. One night during the show after finishing the last note where we turn and look at each other, a rather robust applause and bravo’s from the audience made it’s way to our ears. I looked at my friend Kevin Gray - who, while still in character managed to give me a winked smile with his eye - as if to say, “we did it!” I’ll never forget that moment as long as I live. Kevin Gray; a mentor, a coach, a teacher and a wonderful and faithful friend that I’m grateful to God for!