Harkening back to a golden age of musical theater, Gavin Creel will present his debut solo concert on Sunday, Oct. 14, at the Fairmont San Francisco’s Venetian Room–but don’t call it cabaret.
Although part of Bay Area Cabaret’s 2018-19 season, the seasoned musical theater performer prefers to refer to his show as a concert.
“Cabaret makes me nervous,” Gavin Creel said in a recent phone call. To him, it implies a slicker style that is different from his own. He hopes to make the evening more laid-back and interactive. “I love being myself in front of an audience.”
A 2017 Tony Award winner for Broadway’s Hello, Dolly! costarring Bette Midler, and an Olivier Award winner for London’s West End premiere of The Book of Mormon, Creel is no stranger to standing up in front of an audience. But while he likened being in a staged production to being the passenger of a vehicle, he gets to take the wheel for this concert.
“I really do enjoy the danger of a solo show and the excitement of seeing where the audience is at,” he said.
Experienced musical director Mary-Mitchell Campbell, who recently worked on Broadway’s current production of Mean Girls, will accompany Creel. They plan to experiment with reimagining old favorites (think Rodgers and Hammerstein) by trying different sounds, volumes and tempos.
“It’s a joy to step back there and take a peek, and hopefully the audience will enjoy that as well,” Creel said.
When he’s not performing, Gavin Creel is developing his own musical theater piece called Loud Nite, a semi-autobiographical story that already has 15 songs in the bank. He debuted the songs at Joe’s Pub, part of the Public Theater in New York City, in August. He described the piece as a “labor of love.”
Outside of acting, singing and songwriting, Creel was previously involved with the now-dissolved Broadway Impact, a grassroots organization he started with fellow The Book of Mormon veteran Rory O’Malley and former production coordinator Jenny Kanelos. Broadway Impact mobilized the theater community in support of marriage equality. The group helped raise awareness of the issue before it was legal nationwide.
“It was an incredible moment in my life,” he said. “I’m really proud of the work we did. We made a little bit of noise. We contributed to the fight.”
Gavin Creel is excited to return to San Francisco after spending five weeks in the city–for his first visit ever–while on tour with The Book of Mormonin 2012. He recalled working in the Tenderloin, eating burritos in the Mission and going to a Christmas tree farm just outside the city to chop a tree for holiday decorating.
“I fell head over heels in love with the town,” he said. “I cannot wait to be there.”
This visit, he’ll be spending time in San Francisco practicing for the concert but is also looking forward to going to Golden Gate Park, dining at the Slanted Door and perhaps even taking another city tour with GoCar.
Before he hits San Francisco, Creel will do a couple trial runs of the show in New York. His hope is to give the audience a way to listen to music differently and show how he appreciates the classic lyrics and melodies, and why they’re so important.
“Music has always been the place where I feel safe and home,” Creel said. “This is so exciting for me because it’s the first time professionally I’ve done this kind of show out in the world, and there’s no place this could start other than San Francisco.”
To learn more about Creel’s concert with Bay Area Cabaret, visit www.bayareacabaret.org.
Follow reporter Lea Blevins at Twitter.com/leablevins.