Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Also see Gil's review of Ann Hampton Callaway: The Streisand Songbook
The show began with Creel entering from the back of the theatre and interacting with the audience as he sang a beautiful version of "As If We Never Said Goodbye" from Sunset Boulevard. He also interjected some funny quips about how he's never been in Scottsdale before, so the lyrics weren't exactly correct. He spoke about growing up in Findlay, Ohio, which he said was "whiter than white with little diversity." Creel said he was first introduced to theatre and Broadway via PBS and by checking out recordings of Broadway cast albums from his local library. He graduated from the University of Michigan's School of Music, Theatre & Dance and sang a glorious version of "Today Is the First Day of the Rest of My Life" by Richard Maltby, Jr. David Shire from Starting Here, Starting Now, which he sang at the end of his college days for the showcase where college students perform for dozens of New York agents and casting managers.
Creel's performance of "All the Things You Are" from Very Warm for May showed his ability to tackle a classic Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II song. He also mentioned that his college professors stressed the importance of learning about the early days of Broadway and the importance of the contributions that writers like Kern, Hammerstein, Richard Rodgers, Cole Porter and Irvin Berlin made and how the shows they worked on were the building blocks for current writers. He then sang a song from a fairly recent show, "Moving Too Fast," from The Last Five Years. He said he's a huge fan of the score and its composer Jason Robert Brown and identifies with the man in the song who had everything happen too fast for him when he was 24, as Gavin was around the same age when he made his Broadway debut in Thoroughly Modern Millie and found himself a Tony nominee.
He mentioned that "work begets work" and that, after being part of readings and workshops for the musicals Spring Awakening and Wicked, the director of the Spring Awakening workshop, Michael Mayer, remembered him when they were looking for a new romantic lead for Thoroughly Modern Millie after Sutton Foster had taken over the lead in the out of town tryouts. He also said that working on Thoroughly Modern Millie got him the chance to work with Julie Andrews on two "Eloise" TV movies. They shot those in Toronto and Creel told a story about Andrews, who is from England, being outside in the cold and pacing in two feet of snow trying to perfect her English accent.
He said that it was that work ethic and the consummate professionalism of people who believe their work can always be improved upon that he saw in both Andrews and his Hello, Dolly! co-star, Bette Midler. He said he believes the internet, where everything is instantly available, has screwed up the way we work, adding that the need to constantly improve oneself, and even get simple information, is so much less of a struggle now, when there is less work involved, than it was for people like Andrews and Midler.
Creel also spoke about the uncertainty and the "harsh reality" that can happen once you actually are cast in a Broadway show or tour. He got the part in Thoroughly Modern Millie because, once Sutton Foster was cast, the producers of the show decided to replace the male leadthe actor playing the part in the pre-Broadway production was shorter than Foster. Creel mentioned that, unfortunately, sometimes "the optics just aren't right" for the audience and they decide to replace you. He also talked about how injuries can sideline an actor's chance for success and how in early Broadway previews of Millie he popped his knee, which took him out of the show for two weeks. He thought he may have to be replaced in his first Broadway show. Fortunately, that didn't happen. Creel delivered a lovely, upbeat performance of "What Do I Need with Love?" from that show and even threw in an extra high note at the end, saying, "Seth made me do it."
Creel also talked about the craziness of the Tony Awards show and how watching it on TV makes it seem so glamorous, but in reality nothing looks like it really is as "it's cheaper and smaller and faster." He sang "I Got Life," which he sang in the 2004 revival of Hair, which earned him his second Tony nomination and also, with Rudetsky, the funny and bright "You and Me (But Mostly Me)" from The Book of Mormon which Creel sang in the original London cast, earning an Olivier Award. He said his family keeps him humble and spoke about Facetiming with his parents right after he won the Olivier Award when, due to the time difference and the fact that he was backstage talking to reporters for a while after he won, they already heard he had won. He then spent several minutes discussing how they were out potato farming that day.
He sang the charming "Ilona" from She Loves Me, which he sang in the recent Broadway revival of the musical and spoke about how he didn't get any award nominations for that show, which made him realize the importance of not making the show about yourself but about the shared experience. After that show ended, Creel went on to win the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his next show, Hello, Dolly!. He talked briefly about Bette Midler and how her public persona is nothing like the "golden" person she is. He then sang three songs associated with Midler, including two that she sang in the film Beaches, the hilarious "Otto Titsling" and the quiet Randy Newman ballad "I Think It's Going to Rain Today," which segued beautifully into a soaring "Before the Parade Passes By" that ended the concert on some sustained, soaring notes. For an encore, Creel gave the audience a few a capella lines from "It Only Takes a Moment" from Hello, Dolly! before sitting down at the piano and accompanying himself on a stunning version of "She Used to Be Mine" from Waitress that proved to be the emotional highlight of the evening.
Gavin Creel performed with Seth Rudetsky at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts on March 8, 2019. Information on upcoming concerts at the SCPA can be found at http://www.scottsdaleperformingarts.org.