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Meet the Tony Winners: Gavin Creel of ‘Hello, Dolly!’

Category Starring on Broadway

|by Jeryl Brunner |

Gavin Creel won the 2017 Tony for Featured Actor in a Musical

Gavin Creel attends the 2017 Tony Awards Meet the Nominees (Photo: Jenny Anderson/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)

Gavin Creel attends the 2017 Tony Awards Meet the Nominees (Photo: Jenny Anderson/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)

Gavin Creel plays Cornelius Hackl in the Broadway revival of Hello, Dolly! Nominated for Hair and Thoroughly Modern Modern Millie, he won the 2017 Tony Award for Featured Actor in a Musical for his performance. 

How did it feel to receive your Tony award from Sutton Foster? 
Gavin Creel:
It is a moment that I will never forget for the rest of my life. Sutton is very special to me.  My Broadway debut was in Thoroughly Modern Millie 15 years ago this spring. They did "Forget About the Boy" on the Tony Awards and I came out and put my arms in the air and I made $2,000, which was awesome. I watched her win a Tony Award. Just seeing her and Scott Bacula from Quantum Leap – hello. It was very exciting. It’s surreal. Very surreal. 

How did you discover all the funny moments in Hello, Dolly!? 
Jerry Zaks and Taylor Trensch. They are responsible for anything funny you think I am doing on stage. End of story. When I said, ‘I don’t know what to do with this line. I don’t how this is funny,’ Jerry said, ‘Trust me just do this.’ Or Taylor would say, ‘I got this and think we should do this.’ Those two men are the reason why I have any humor in this show. 

People look up to you so much in this community. What is your advice to people who want to be in musical theater?
If you want to be in musical theater, get off social media. Stop leading a virtual life and lead an actual life. Don't disappear into your phone in a never-ending cycle of neurosis and anxiety. It’s the reason I'm off completely because I thought, why am I anxious all the time? And to be alive, to be an actor in this business, isn't to look at yourself. It's to look outward to an audience and to find a way to give to an audience. And if you're staring at yourself or cultivating a life on your phone, I would say get out of your phone and get on stage.

What role would you love to play that you are completely miscast for? 
There are so many, but Sally Bowles from Cabaret is so great. I love the show and that role. What I love about Sally is that she gets to perform for an audience, be in great scenes and has great songs. The actual acting part of it is so raw. She’s charismatic. She is vivacious. She is so flawed. She is a mess and so vulnerable. I love that part. 

Why do you love to sing? 
For me, singing is like breathing. I have been singing since I was around four with my grandmother at the piano, making little tapes. We sang songs like “You Are My Sunshine” and “Jimmy Crack Corn.” It was literally my grandma Nana Clemens and me at the piano.  I still have all the tapes. It's unbelievable. My mom and dad found them for me when I was a little older and said ‘check these out.’ It is proof that I've been doing this for a very, very long time. Here I was at four and playing the piano myself. Music has been a part of my life before I was speaking. I love it and am grateful. Not only does singing pay my bills and mortgage, but allows me to feel joy.  Hopefully, it allows other people to feel the same.  I can’t imagine a life without it. I really can’t.

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