Gavin Creel proved that three times is the charm when he won his first Tony Award June 11 for his performance as Cornelius Hackl in the critically acclaimed and Tony-winning Broadway revival of Hello, Dolly! He was previously Tony-nominated for his work in the Diane Paulus-directed revival of Hair and the musical comedy Thoroughly Modern Millie, which marked his Broadway debut. Here, the singing actor, also an Olivier Award nominee for the London production of The Book of Mormon, shares the theatrical performances that most affected him as part of the audience.
Toni Collette in The Wild Party
I lost my mind for her. I couldn’t believe that she had never done a musical before, and I am praying someone finds a way to get her back on Broadway....and I also pray that they cast me to play opposite her.
Okay, so I’m biased...but her Olive was so heartbreaking and adorable and just plain awesome. I am so proud to call her my friend and watch more and more people fall in love with her talent.
I was at the invited dress for this show, and it was an afternoon I will never forget. The energy in the theatre was beyond electric, and Harvey was the big boa-ed heart at the center of all the joyful glitz.
Hamilton Off-Broadway Cast
I know this isn’t technically Broadway, but I will forever count myself lucky that I was at the opening of this show when it debuted at The Public. I remember [The Public’s artistic director] Oskar [Eustis] giving a speech before the show started about Lin [-Manuel Miranda] and what we were about to see. Needless to say, I was not prepared. At intermission, I seriously considered quitting the business because I felt like nothing I could even dream of trying could ever live up to what I was seeing. I’m not going to quit....but I still feel that way.
I had read her name in liner notes of other shows before, but seeing her onstage in this elegant, beautiful production made me a huge fan. It was one of those moments where I felt like a part and a person melded perfectly, and what we were watching was Margaret in her real-life story. And the power in that voice....sheesh.
This is technically two performances, but what they did together was musical comedy gold. Josh could have made a glass of water funny, and Andrew was having the moment in his career that all of us who were his friends knew was long overdue. Knowing the show as well as I do, I can honestly say that I can hear and see which parts they directly contributed in making it the brilliance that it is today.
Deanna Dunagan in August: Osage County
I did Bounce with Deanna at the Goodman in 2003 and knew her as a tiny, sweet ensemble member who was covering Jane Powell. So I completely lost my mind when she ripped the roof off the theatre as the pill-popping matriarch of this now legendary play. She is a beast!!
Original Company of Rent
My sister and I saw this show four months after it had opened on Broadway. I had read about it in the New York Times while I was at college, so I knew I wanted to see it, but the CD hadn’t been released yet so I didn’t know the score or anything. I can still remember humming songs as I left the theatre, which never happens to me, and I kept thinking to myself, “I’m gonna have to keep an eye on that Idina person because I think she might have a really good career.”
He was sexy, he was subversive, he was unknown, he was magnetic, and he was Scottish! I know I never saw Joel Grey do the original, but this guy is my Emcee forever and always.
Bette Midler and David Hyde Pierce in Hello, Dolly!
Once in a while, I have felt the rare sensation of being able to see the long view of a moment that I’m in, while it is happening around me... This is one of those times. Whether I’m waltzing with Bette or staring at David from the trap room, I just can’t believe my life. I get to watch two masters in their prime every night, and I know it will be something I will never forget.