No plans Friday night? Why not curl up on the couch and let Tony winner Gavin Creel croon to you in the comfort of your own home when his Stars On Stage From Westport Country Playhouse concert airs on PBS?
Filmed live at Westport Country Playhouse in Connecticut in fall of 2021, the concert series also featured Shoshana Bean, and Brandon Victor Dixon. Each will air on PBS consecutive Fridays in January, starting with Creel on January 7, Bean on January 14, and Dixon on January 21 at 9 PM ET (check local listings).
Creel, most recently seen on Broadway in Waitress, earned a Tony for his role as Cornelius Hackl in the 2017 revival of Hello, Dolly! His concert features tunes from Broadway, as well as some of his own original songs, including “Unfinished World” from his show Walk On Through, a project commissioned by New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. The concert is directed by Andrew C. Wilk, with Mary-Mitchell Campbell as music director.
Playbill talked with Creel about his how he created his solo concert for the Westport Country Playhouse series.
How do you approach the creation of a solo concert? Do you start with songs, themes, stories?
Gavin Creel: I usually do concerts to share my original songwriting, but I’ve really enjoyed putting together a more theatre-centered concert over the past few years. I go back into my past to find songs I have loved singing, and ones that I have never had the chance to sing. Also, I like using music as a touchstone to moments in my past: what was I listening to at that time? who did I hear? what was I feeling? …and what music captures that best? I look at artists’ catalogues that I've loved to see what they're singing—what they bring to life—whether or not it ends up in the set, it’s just a really fun way to educate myself further about great tunes.
My favorite thing to do when putting together a solo show is ordering the setlist. The order sets the tempo and pace of the night, and I love trying to get it just right. I remember my very first show in New York was a night of original songs, performed with a full band at FEZ under Time Cafe (R.I.P.). I had no idea what I was doing, and I was SO nervous about the banter—“what do I say between songs???” Now, that is pretty much my favorite part of the night.
Is there a song in this show that is particularly special to you and can you share why?
The #1 reason I'm grateful that this concert has been captured on film is for “Another Hundred People." Company has been special to me for so many reasons since I was introduced to it in college. I played Bobby in a student theatre summer production. I was obsessed with the cast recording and the Pennebaker documentary. I did scenes of it in performance classes. I saw every revival (though I still have yet seen the new one—can’t wait!). I was really excited to use that song that I have loved so much to tell my story of coming to New York for the first time. I'm really proud of what Mary-Mitchell and I arranged with that piece and how it all turned out. I can’t wait to share it with the world.
Since these broadcasts are coming around the New Year let's take a look back: Tell us your very first memory of being onstage.
I talk about this in the show—my elementary school had a 5th and 6th grade choir, glee club, and ensemble that gave me my first taste of what being up there was like. We were a bunch of prepubescent 10-, 11-, and 12-year-olds belting it out in front of a cafetorium full of our doting parents and bored siblings. It was heaven. I basically keep trying to get back to that feeling every time I sing.
And, a look forward: Do you have a dream role, or a dream collaboration, or a song that’s yet unsung?
I can honestly say, I don’t. The only thing I think about is the show I’m writing called Walk On Through. It’s an original musical reflection on The Met Museum, art, life, love, pain, dreams, lust, show business, friendship, gayness, frustration, loss, and the ultimate futility of trying to figure any of it out. I continue to keep working on it and look forward to sharing it again in the future.