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Broadway Q&A: Gavin Creel of 'Waitress'

Category Broadway

|by Jeryl Brunner |

The Tony winner talks his friendship with Sara Bareilles, pies & more

Gavin Creel’s career has thrived on Broadway and the West End. He has starred as missionary Elder Price in The Book of Mormon, as Clyde in Hair, Steven Kodaly in She Loves Me, Bert in Mary Poppins and Jimmy in Thoroughly Modern Millie. He also won a Tony for playing Cornelius Hackl in Hello, Dolly! Currently, he stars opposite Sara Bareilles in the hit musical Waitress, now entering its third year on Broadway. Bareilles plays a waitress and ace pie-maker who skillfully creates all of the pies at Joe’s Pie Diner where she works. She is stuck in an awful dead-end marriage and longs to escape. Creel plays her gynecologist, Dr. Pomatter, who helps inspire her. 

Gavin Creel and Sara Bareilles currently star in ‘Waitress’ (Photo: Shervin Lainez)

Gavin Creel and Sara Bareilles currently star in ‘Waitress’ (Photo: Shervin Lainez)

You and Sara have been friends for years. When did you first meet her?  
Gavin Creel
: Almost 10 years ago Sara and I did a concert together to benefit the fight for marriage equality. We did it with Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors Foundation and an organization, Broadway Impact, that I started with a couple of my friends to mobilize the theater community. One Broadway person was paired with one pop person. I was lucky enough to matched up with Sara, and I just loved her.  We kept in touch over the years.

Then, when she was just about to start rehearsals for Waitress at the American Repertory Theater, I did a benefit for the theater with her, and rehearsed in New York. Ever since that experience, I felt that I had re-met a soul, a kindred spirit that I’ve known in past lives. It’s a weird out-of-body awesome connection. I never anticipated that we would get the chance to be on stage in this show together. I still dream of us getting to do something new together in theater. 

Do you have a favorite moment in Waitress
Gavin Creel
: Before my first entrance in the doctor’s office she sings the song, “What Baking Can Do.” I listen to her sing off stage: “Sugar, butter, flour, don't let me down…” Listening to her go up into these notes, it’s so effortless, powerful and clear. There is nobody who sings like her. I stand next to our head prop guy and say, “Listen, listen, listen, listen.” And when that part comes, we both say, “There’s nobody better.” 

Even though your character, Dr. Pomatter, makes so many mistakes, underneath it all he means well. What are some of his qualities that you like?
Gavin Creel
: What brings him and Jenna together is a needy, despicable act. What is cool is that you have characters who are treated sympathetically while they are behaving poorly. You realize, “Oh wait, they’re human and in pain.” I love trying not making it okay. He’s a good man and making poor choices. So why? I like looking at the why.

Dr. Pomatter is really good at what he does. He just doesn’t have the most confident bedside manner. He puts his foot in his mouth a lot more than not. That is fun to explore. I like to think the next musical written would be called Doctor. It would be Dr. Pomatter’s awakening because of Jenna. She was there to open his eyes. Just like I was there to open hers. Everyone in the story has a purpose in Jenna’s life. I see Dr. Pomatter as her agent for change. And she is mine.

What do you love to do when you are not working?
: I have the great good fortune of having a little cabin in the woods upstate. I’m writing a piece called Loud Nite. I’m going to try to lock myself in my house when I have time, and continue to experiment with scenes and songs so we can get ready for our workshop in the spring. I have a lot of music, and some story ideas. I’m calling it a concert/musical/song cycle but with movement. I just want to explore storytelling in a way that doesn’t follow as many of the rules. And it hopefully will work.

Ben Platt has said that the first Broadway show he saw was Thoroughly Modern Millie, and how meaningful it was when you showed him backstage after.  
: It is very humbling and touching to have somebody with Ben’s talent and career say I had any influence on them. I don’t take that responsibility lightly. I try to continue to make choices and act in a way that people still want to follow in those footsteps. 

Waitress is all about pies. when you indulge what is your go-to pie?
: It’s the same answer every time. So forgive me, but it's my mom’s peaches and cream pie. It was something from when I was a kid. It has cream cheese swirled through it, peaches out of a can with the heavy cling syrup. It’s just a dirty, crusty, yummy, gooey, slimy mess of joy.

For more of the best of Broadway, check out our list of the Top Shows in New York in February 2019.

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