Hello, Dolly! Tony Nominee Gavin Creel Reveals His Favorite Thing About Working With Bette Midler

Tony Awards   Hello, Dolly! Tony Nominee Gavin Creel Reveals His Favorite Thing About Working With Bette Midler
The Tony-nominated actor chats about the roaring crowds at Hello, Dolly!, his A-list co-stars, and the one performance he’ll never forget.
Gavin Creel Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Seven times a week at the Shubert Theatre, audiences erupt into spontaneous applause as the cast of the critically acclaimed revival of Hello, Dolly!—led by the magical wonder that is Bette Midler—begin singing and dancing to Jerry Herman’s toe-tapping, gloriously melodic “Put on Your Sunday Clothes.”

Easter_Bonnet_2017_Easter Bonnet Competition 2017-Gavin Creel and Bette Midler and David Hyde Pierce-photo by Monica Simoes-0807_HR.jpg
Gavin Creel, Bette Midler, and David Hyde Pierce Monica Simoes

“I’m so grateful that I can sing in that number,” Gavin Creel, a 2017 Tony nominee for his performance as Cornelius Hackl in the Jerry Zaks-directed production, said the morning the Tony nominations were announced. “It’s a dream. When that chord goes boom, [and I sing] ’Out there…,’ it’s the greatest feeling.”

It should be noted that “Sunday Clothes” is just one of innumerable moments throughout the sparkling revival of Dolly! that causes the sold-out crowds to cheer in delight.

“I’ve never heard roaring—true roaring—like that,” admitted Creel, whose Broadway credits also include Thoroughly Modern Millie, La Cage aux Folles, Hair, The Book of Mormon, and She Loves Me. “Kate [Baldwin] and Beanie [Feldstein] and Taylor [Trensch] and I sit in that pod for those scenes before and during [the song] ’Hello, Dolly!’ So we’re on the stage the entire time behind a curtain. We listen to ’Hello, Dolly!’ every night, and we’re like, ’These people are losing their minds!’ I’m so proud.”

As for the musical’s leading lady, who is also Tony-nominated for her thrilling performance as everybody's favorite matchmaker, Creel praised her expert craft. “She’s maybe one of the hardest-working, if not the hardest worker I’ve ever witnessed work,” he said. “She’s exacting—never does anything the same. She’s constantly retooling. I watch and listen to her. She never does the lines the same. She’s constantly working. I think she’s going to be that way the entire time. It’s a huge task, and she’s working her butt off. But I think she’s starting to have fun. We’re starting to see a little twinkle in her eye where she’s playing with us. It’s hard not to be in awe every day. She’s incredible.

“And David Hyde Pierce, [who plays Horace Vandergelder],” Creel continues, “if there is a human being who is greater than him, I need you to show me. He’s literally a unicorn.”

And though it's early in the run, is there any moment from the Dolly! experience that currently stands out in the three-time Tony nominee’s mind?

“This is obvious and silly,” Creel answered, “because it’s never happened to me before. But there was that night... Before [she sings] ’Parade’ at the end of the first act, she’s at her most vulnerable. She’d been sick with a really bad cold, and she had a coughing jag. I went into Noah Wylie-ER mode, and I thought, ’Let me get her a glass of water! She’s choking!’ And I just waltzed out onstage [with a glass of water] and seeing her there in character, in that vulnerable state. I thought, ’I’m an actor, she’s an actor. There’s no way she’s going to get through this without getting something to swig back.’ And then you heard the audience roar for her. They were cheering for her. It was magical. It was unbelievable!”

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