With his soulful debut single, Kilgore makes the rare leap from musical theater to mainstream recognition.
As paths to success in musical theater go, Mykal Kilgore’s was fairly familiar. He started out as a cruise ship performer. In 2009, he auditioned for a Dallas-Fort Worth production of the musical revue Five Guys Named Moe and was hired by director Billy Porter — who went on to win a Tony Award for his performance in Kinky Boots, as well as become Kilgore’s mentor. On Porter’s advice, Kilgore moved to New York and began booking roles on Broadway — including Hair, Motown the Musical and Dear Evan Hansen — as well as in TV musicals like Jesus Christ Superstar with John Legend and The Wiz Live!
By 2018, Kilgore was ready to make a leap many Broadway performers before him had: writing and recording an album. But the results he has seen since have been decidedly less expected: In November, he was nominated for a best traditional R&B performance Grammy for his debut single, “Let Me Go.”
“He pulled a rabbit out of the hat with this nomination,” says a proud Porter. “If an artist starts on Broadway, the music industry doesn’t see you like that. I got my Grammy from being in a Broadway show [Kinky Boots won best musical theater album in 2014], not for any of my own albums. Whether Mykal wins or not, he did it. There’s power in that.” As Kilgore himself puts it: “Just because you’re small doesn’t mean you’re not mighty.”