Interview with Tony nominee Gavin Creel
Three-time Tony nominee and Olivier Award winner Gavin Creelis currently starring as Cornelius Hackl, opposite Bette Midler, David Hyde Pierce and Kate Baldwin in the Broadway revival of Hello, Dolly! at the Shubert Theatre.
Gavin is Tony-nominated for his current role and earned previous nominations for his performance as Claude in Hair(2009) and as Jimmy Smith in Thoroughly Modern Millie(2002). His other Broadway credits include La Cage aux Folles, The Book of Mormon and the Roundabout Theatre Company's recent revival of She Loves Me. He also appeared in the original off-Broadway cast of Bat Boy: The Musical. In London, he won an Olivier Award in 2014 for originating the role of Elder Price in the West End production of The Book of Mormon. Other West End credits include Hair and the role of Bert in Mary Poppins.
We caught up with Gavin to talk about being in a smash hit musical...even before the first preview and being backstage with Bette Midler...
Thomas Hayden Millward: Congratulations on your third Tony nomination, Gavin! You’ve already become somewhat of a Broadway and West End veteran in your young years. And now you’re playing Cornelius Hackl in Hello, Dolly! opposite someone called Bette Midler?
Gavin Creel: Yes, she’s a little bit famous, that woman…
THM: Someone’s got to do it, Gavin. How do you feel when you’re in a show that is already a commercial smash hit, before the first preview has even taken place?
GC: Well, I get nervous anytime somebody says that. When we had our first meeting with the producers, on the first day of rehearsals, they were like: “It’s a hit…” and we were like: “Don’t say that!” Because what if it’s not a good show? And I’m really proud of the show. I don’t read reviews and stuff like that. But I’m really proud of what it is and people seem to be enjoying it. The sales are good, so I guess you can call it a hit. But it still feels weird to call it that, you know?
THM: Well, if you didn’t read any reviews, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but a lot of them were 5-star reviews…
GC: Well, I’m happy to hear that! (Laughs)
THM: I’m interested to know, when you first come together as a cast and one member of the cast is at superstardom level…
GC: Well, there’s two for me, because David Hyde Pierce is like a miracle to me…
THM: Well, David is stealing every scene he is in!
GC: Oh, he’s unbelievable!
THM: …Is the vibe in the rehearsal room different at all?
GC: In the beginning it was. In the beginning, there was no way to ignore it that there she is… and there he is. There’s the person and then there’s the fame that surrounds them. This is going to sound so “wanky,” but once we get through the fame part, you see that she’s just a person who is trying to figure out who the hell am I in this play. What do I do? Is this part funny? How can I make this part better? Then you realise that they’re just trying to get it right, just like the rest of us. You’re never gonna meet two people that work harder than Bette Midler or David Hyde Pierce… especially Bette in the way that she can just coast. She could just go out there and read the alphabet sixteen times in a row and people would just scream and cry and kill themselves.
THM: A tear of joy shed for every letter uttered.
GC: Exactly! (Laughs)
THM: And thanks for using the word “wanky,” by the way, as it’s my favourite word of all time!
GC: Wanky, wanky, wanky!
THM: Was there a particular ice-breaker that happened for you personally?
GC: We’re writing down the things that she says because she’s hilarious! My favourite thing that I heard her say during tech was as she was trying to get the balance of the orchestra right and they were like: “Bette, when you come in, just listen for the tuba.” And she goes: [mimics Bette Midler] “I don’t hear no tuba!” We just love her! We’re gonna make T-Shirts that say “I don’t hear no tuba!”