Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Gavin Creel | Interview

Gavin Creel is currently starring in the West End production of The Book of Mormon as Elder Price after playing the role of the first U.S tour. His credits include the North American Tour of Fame playing Nick Piazza, Honk! as Ugly, Bat Boy (Off-Broadway), Jimmy Smith in Thoroughly Modern Millie (Broadway, nominated for a Tony Award), Jean-Michel in La Cage aux Folles (Broadway), Bert in Mary Poppins (West End) and Claude in Hair (Broadway and West End, nominated for a Tony Award and a Drama League Award). He released his first solo album, Goodtimenation, in 2006 and has released two more since then. I was lucky enough to catch up with Gavin… 

How did you originally start getting involved in performing arts?

I was a musical kid all growing up. I took piano, trumpet, was in a bunch of choirs at church and I guess I also liked to show off being the youngest of three kids. It just grew from there i think. I found I enjoyed performing, who doesn't love attention?! And I may be a bit of an attention seeker (again...who isn't?  Especially in this business!)  but once I decided to major in musical theatre in college my parents completely supported me in that decision, I knew that my path was pretty clear. Well, at least where I was going, not necessarily the result. 

You’ve previously said that Thoroughly Modern Millie one of the greatest things you’ve done through out your career, what was so special about that show?

Did I say that?  I mean, it was pretty great, but I didn't know i said it like that! It was my biggest break for sure. I think because it was my first in so many ways; My first broadway show, my first leading role in new york, my first nomination, etc. It all just felt like a dream.  

Hair was received so well by everyone who saw it in London, its a shame that it was short lived. Doing the show on Broadway as well you must have some fond memories from your experience with the show.

I have a million great memories from that show. It was my favourite experience of my career so far. That is not to say that all the other amazing jobs I have had pale in comparison. I have loved all my opportunities but Hair was special in so many life changing ways. To highlight just one instance would be hard for me. The one thing that comes to mind was the Sunday afternoon that our entire Broadway cast marched into times square to lead off a huge rally between our 7th and 8th show.  we were exhausted, but the cause of marriage equality was important to us all. We finished the matinee, raced up to our dressing rooms, blasted music, got our faces painted and dressed up in beads and flowers and equality t-shirts and we marched from our stage door to 46th and 6th avenue and climbed the stage to kick off an incredible afternoon. We didn’t get to stay to watch all the amazing speakers (the mayor, the governor, loads of stars) because we had to go back and do the evening show. It was a very proud moment for me and my cast.  

The first time you came over to London to do a show was when you played Bert in Mary Poppins, what were your initial thoughts on how the UK audiences would react to you? 

I had no idea. I was just excited to have the job! They seemed to embrace me pretty well but I was just coming in to an already successful show with a bunch of really great Brits, so it wasn't that tough. Just had to say the lines and do the stuff they told me!

What are the differences between the UK and American audiences?

Before mormon I would have said Americans are more outwardly exuberant. But to be honest, this show has blown that myth out of the water. They flip from start to finish almost every night. It is a great feeling.  

You’re an activist for gay rights, how would you compare the US and the UK with how they’re dealing with equality? 

The UK is about 4 years ahead of us it feels but blazing a beautiful trail for us to follow. 

The Book of Mormon is your third show in London, you can’t seem to keep away! How did you feel when they asked you if you wanted to transfer to the West End and originate the role over here? 

It almost felt like a natural thing to be honest. I sort of fit in both places I feel. I mean, I miss home and my friends and family back in the US but I feel like I have a great network of people here. I look forward to being home eventually and settling down a bit but I would never say no to the idea of coming back here again. It's like my second home.

The Book of Mormon has been a hit with audiences both over here and in America, what do you think is the key to its success? 

I think it is mostly due to Trey (Parker) and Matt’s (Stone) popularity. They bring a new-ness to musical theatre that excites the audiences and they bring a completely new demographic than would normally come to see a musical in the south park fans. That, plus it is a really well written show with a brilliant message and a lot of hilarity and heart.  

Being cast as a 19 year old must be quite flattering considering you’re actually 37! You look a lot younger than you actually are, do you get those comments often? 

Yes, thankfully! I always say though, this is a musical comedy. There is a lot of leeway in 'age' and such when you are putting on a show like this. I mean, let's get real, my mother is played by a man in a denim dress. I don't think we are going for complete realism!

You’ve been in the book of mormon alongside Jared Gertner for about a year and a half now, performing on tour around America and in the West End. You must have a very special relationship. 

We do. I trust Jared implicitly. It is so important to be able to do that in this show. He is a great guy and I feel really lucky to be sharing this experience with him.

You’ve released three albums so far, can we look forward to a fourth any time soon? 

At the moment, I'm just enjoying what I have made up to this point and concentrating on my theatre career.  I will continue to write but there is nothing in the works at the moment.  

Are there any parts you would like to play in the future? 

New ones. Great powerful new parts. I want to tell all the writers out there, I'm ready. Write on!

Do you have any exciting plans for the future? 

I want to buy a house. That's my future dream at the moment. The business stuff will take care of itself. Hell, everything takes care of itself. I'm just along for the ride.  

From Left to right: as Bert in Mary Poppins, as Claude in Hair, as Elder Price in The Book of Mormon, as Jimmy in Thoroughly Modern Millie.

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