Smash hit musical A Strange Loop has arrived in London. It’s about being black, fat and queer and RuPaul called it above and beyond brilliant and Billy Porter said it’s one of the best musicals ever. Nigel Robinson talks to star of the show Kyle Ramar Freeman about the show, his church background, and acceptance on the gay scene
Is this your first time in London? How are you finding it?
Yes, it’s my first time although I haven’t been able to explore much it as I have been in rehearsal.
How do you get into the performing arts in the first place?
I got into performance at church. I grew up in a Baptist church and performed and we did skits and Easter and Christmas plays. In elementary I studied ballet, dance and tap, and in middle school I studied theatre and that’s when it all happened.
Was your church background a big part of your life?
It was. I went to church multiple days a week. I was in the choir. I did miming and dance and a lot of creative things in church, interestingly enough, and then I carried it over into school and now I’m here!
How does your church background compare to your showbiz background?
It made me think or feel I could do everything in the entertainment industry because I did do much in church and I flexed all these muscles and I wasn’t afraid to be in front of people The church is a bit more encouraging for you to get up and sing whereas people in the industry nitpick everything you do in performance. So the church is a lot more encouraging.
A Strange Loop which arrives at London’s Barbican won a Tony Award and is one of only ten musicals ever to win a Pulitzer Prize. Tell us a little about it.
A Strange Loop is about a big, black, queer man named Usher who is a musical theatre writer and is writing a musical about a big black queer man called Usher and he is dealing with his self-image, his self- hatred and he is trying to navigate all of that while living in New York City and having all of these different experiences which inform how he writes his musical. It’s funny and it’s endearing and it’s challenging at times but the themes are very universal because Usher is trying to learn how to be comfortable in his own skin. So it’s all about that.
A Strange Loop is about being black, queer and fat. Do you think there is a problem with that in the LGBTQ+ community?
I don’t think there is a problem but there is a challenge being black, fat and queer in any space, but especially in your own community. It’s kind of weird that people who were othered are now othering people in their own community. It’s just bizarre. But what I love about the show is that is featuring a black fat queer person and explores his world view and ideas and point of view which I think is important for people to see. Explore his ideas and his points of view which I think is very important for people to see. With this story it allows people to view how you see people and their background and how you would be relatable to them.
Usher is an usher in The Lion King have you seen the Lion King?
I have! I like it! It was the first musical I ever saw.
Pride in London is on 01 July. Obviously you are going to be working but are you going to try catch a part of it?
Absolutely! Wherever it is I will catch it. It will be great to see what London will do for Pride.
Do you like and appreciate Pride?
I do. I came out at 23 so I’ve spent the majority of my life not being who I was. So Pride is a very big deal as queer people tend to be loud and lively and full of colour and I like living in that space with people who are in my community. I think that it is important to be who we are and to celebrate that unapologetically.
You’re the starring role in A Strange Loop. Which other role in musical theatre would you like to tackle?
A role I would like to tackle is a role that I have not seen yet! I liked the idea that A Strange Loop is new and fresh so the role I would like to do is something new and fresh that allows me to use all the layers of my talent and not just popping out and singing a song. I want to do roles not similar to Usher but that allow me to express my full self and my talents on a stage and in front of people.
A Strange Loop is at the Barbican Theatre in London until 09 September.
Go to: strangeloopmusical.com>