Gavin Creel is one of the biggest names on Broadway: He won an Olivier Award for his performance in “The Book of Mormon” on London’s West End and was nominated for Tonys for his performances in “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and “Hair” on Broadway. He finally took home his own golden statue after starring alongside Bette Midler in the 2017 revival of “Hello, Dolly!”
Creel will return to South Florida this weekend for two intimate performances of his favorite songs in Aventura and Delray Beach.
“We’re gonna sing some songs and make people happy, I hope,” said Creel. “I have a great pianist, Chris Kong, and we’re going to do songs from the Great American Songbook, songs I love from the theater, peppered with song from the shows I’ve done.”
After a pause, the 43-year-old summed it all up: “We’re going to explore the life of a Broadway performer today with songs from the past.”
Creel especially enjoys spotting young people in his audiences. He jumps at the opportunity to offer encouragement from the stage and important insights for success in an incredibly competitive industry.
Judging from his resume, one might expect Creel to relish the sounds of yesteryear, the Golden Age revivals that brought him accolades on stage.
“I appreciate the songwriting from that time and definitely appreciate the great melodies and simple lyrics. I like the challenge of making [those classics] feel sexy and new,” Creel said, “but I’m also excited by the newer stuff.”
Creel particularly appreciates the musicals of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (“Dear Evan Hansen”), Jason Robert Brown (“Bridges of Madison County,” “Parade”) and Tom Kitt (“Next to Normal”) and the pressing social issues they raise. Creel, who is openly gay, co-founded Broadway Impact several years ago to advocate for LGBT rights.
In the meantime, Creel is writing and publishing his own material. He’s particularly concerned about many of the recent trends in musical theater—the volume, sound design, bigger and louder pit bands.
“We’re not adjusting sonically for the singer, we’re adjusting for the audience. In an era of YouTube and ‘American Idol,’ if you’re not wailing and riffing, it doesn’t seem to have value,” he explained. “Sometimes, I worry that it’s telling young people you have to be fierce and belt it out. Even though pop music is coming into the theater—and I’m excited about it—if we’re not telling a story, we’re just screaming.”
So, what’s next for Creel?
“I want one role, that one musical role where I’m the title character and carry the show that’s contemporary and modern and gay…and I want it to be fantastic. I envy Patti [LuPone] for her Evita, Ben [Platt] for his Evan Hansen and those unforgettable actors who landed that iconic role,” Creel said. “Regardless, I’ll die happy, [and] in the meantime I’ll keep writing my own stuff.”
Gavin Creel performs in concert on Sunday, Jan. 5 at 7 p.m. at the Aventura Arts and Cultural Center, 3385 N.E. 188th St. in Aventura. Tickets start at $50 at AventuraCenter.org. He repeats the program on Monday, Jan. 6 at 8 p.m. at Old School Square, 51 N. Swinton Ave. in Delray Beach. Tickets start at $60 at OldSchoolSquare.org.