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#BornThisDay: Broadway’s Gavin Creel


2017 Tony Awards, CBS via YouTube

April 18, 1976– Gavin Creel

As if everything about the current Tony Award-winning revival of the musical Hello, Dolly! isn’t delicious enough: Bette Midler, Bernadette Peters, David Hyde Pierce, Victor Garber; it also has featured hottie Gavin Creel as Cornelius Hackl, a role originated by gay actor Charles Nelson Reilly, and smashingly played by Michael Crawford in the film version and Anthony Perkins in the film of The Matchmaker, the source material.

Creel writes of  Cornelius Hackl’s own fearlessness:

“Cornelius is at a breaking point. He is thinking, If I don’t live now, I’m never going to live. So he decides to make that snap decision to disobey his boss and give himself one great day. And he has probably never disobeyed his boss in his life. It all goes a little bit haywire. But in the end he stands up for himself and says, ‘This has been the greatest day of my life and even if I am poor and broke and never work again, I’ll know I at least had one great day’. I love that! What are we waiting for? If you want that great day, go and get it.”

Cutie pie Tony Award nominee Santino Fontana, has stepped into the role while Creel, who won a 2017 Tony for the role, recovers from back surgery.

Creel also really lit up the 2016 Broadway revival She Loves Me, a perfect bon-bon show first produced in 1963. She Loves Me has a score by Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock, the team the brought us Fiddler On the Roof, among other great musicals. It is an adaption of the play Parfumerie by Hungarian playwright Miklos Laszlo,  which had already been made into the 1940 film The Shop Around the Corner (1940) starring James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan.

Creel and Jane Krakowski in “She Loves Me” via YouTube

It had already been given the musical treatment with the Judy Garland and Van Johnson vehicle, In the Good Old Summertime (1949). It came around again with Nora Ephron‘s You’ve Got Mail (1998) with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. The plot revolves around two Budapest retail clerks who, despite being consistently at odds with each other at work, are unaware that each is the other’s secret pen pal met through a newspaper personal ad. She Loves Me had a great run last year on Broadway, winning terrific reviews and sold-out houses, and a bunch of Tony Award nominations.

I love this show so much. It is in my Top Five Musicals Of All Time. I have seen it several times and I was tantalizingly close to being in a Seattle production in 2001. I was cast, to my shock, not as the older shopkeeper, the role I aggressively auditioned for, but as the roué and cad Steven Kodaly, the role Creel played. I ended up not accepting the role. The Husband and I, in a collective nervous breakdown, suddenly departed Seattle for Portland, Oregon, and I let this one get away.

I don’t know about where you live, but nearly everyone I know in Portland is a hyphenate (lawyer-farmer, author-chicken wrangler), even I am writer ne’er-do-well. Creel is most certainly a many word hyphenate: Activist-actor-singer-songwriter. He is also one of founders of Broadway Impact, an organization of theatre professionals fighting for LGBT Equality. Plus, nearly every summer for the past seven years, he drops everything to teach vocal interpretation and help students develop original material at The Performing Arts Project (TPAP). The not-for-profit performing arts training program draws young people from around the world from the United States to New Zealand to Switzerland. In addition to Creel, TPAP has drawn some of Broadway’s biggest, brightest stars including: Steven Pasquale, Kelli O’Hara, and Kristin Chenoweth.  TPAP alumni have gone on to Broadway roles in The Lion King, Hamilton and Once On This Island.

Creel came out of the closet publicly in a 2009 interview in The Advocate. He has been honored as one of Out Magazine’s “OUT 100”. He has performed and given speeches at events benefiting The Human Rights Campaign. Creel toured with Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors concert series and he sang on the Capitol lawn at the 2009 National Equality March.

He is a frequent contributing performer for MCC Theater’s annual Broadway Miscast Benefit, where Broadway stars sing numbers from roles in which they would never be cast to amazing results. He also performs for Bernadette Peter’s Broadway Barks, the star-studded dog and cat adoption event benefiting NYC animal shelters and adoption agencies.

Check him out in this video from last year’s Broadway Miscast with hearthrob Aaron Tveit singing Take Me Or Leave Me from Rent:

Last May, the Broadway Cast recording of this new Hello, Dolly! was released. It is a real treat to hear Creel’s crystal clear tenor doing those songs.

Creel was in the cast of the terrific revival of Hair on both Broadway (2009) and The West End (2010). He earned Tony Award nominations for Hair and his Broadway debut, Thoroughly Modern Millie (2002). He has also appeared on Broadway in La Cage Aux Folles (2004) and the West End production of Mary Poppins (2007). He’s come a long way since his first stage appearance when, as a high school sophomore, Creel played Sir Sagamore in Camelot; speaking just two words: “and mine”. Although I appreciate him shirtless in Hair, Creel had to wear a white shirt and black tie as Elder Price in the London production of The Book Of Mormon, for which he won the Olivier Award in 2014.

in “The Book Of Mormon” (2014) via YouTube

In “Hair” (2009) via YouTube

Out and proud Creel says:

“Talking about sexuality, sexual orientation and understanding how sexual identity factors into all of our thinking, is a conversation that I believe everyone should fearlessly enter into. It drives me crazy how “gay issues” so often appear to be just for the gays and are therefore relegated to the outside edges of a newspaper or newscast or even election, except when it is conveniently spun into the hot topic to help mobilize people against us for the sake of “morality”. I love who I am, but I don’t see me and my gay friends as a bunch of homos who should be set apart from the rest. I don’t agree with those in our community who think that as gay people we are special and should therefore keep ourselves isolated from certain straight-associated thinking or conventions. If I really am special, I don’t need to separate myself to stand out (yet another thing I would say to the pimple-faced, show-choir-obsessed, teenage version of me). I hope the words are call to everyone: sexy straights, bi beauties, terrific trans people and, of course, us gorgeous gays.”

My sources tell me that Creel, who is single, has dated fellow Broadway Babies Andrew Rannells (who originated the role of Elder Price in The Book Of Mormon) and the adorable Jonathan Groff. Too bad that I am married; I could be Creel’s daddy.

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