After 22 years as one among Broadway’s most prolific main males, Gavin Creel is able to flip the highlight inward.
The Tony-winning actor and singer presently stars in “Stroll on By: Confessions of a Museum Novice,” which opened Dec. 4 at New York’s MCC Theater. Commissioned by the Metropolitan Museum of Artwork and directed by Linda Goodrich, the musical consists of 17 pop-rock songs, all of which Creel wrote after spending time on the Met ― which he’d prevented visiting since transferring to New York in 1998 ― 4 years in the past.
Over the course of 100 minutes, Creel takes in a few of the Met’s best-known works, alluding to work by Edward Hopper and Jackson Pollock alongside the way in which. However an artwork historical past lecture this isn’t, as Creel’s aesthetic observations quickly give method to deeper revelations about his relationships, Christianity and sexuality.
It’s a heartfelt and, at occasions, intentionally messy peek into his psyche as he reckons along with his previous and future at center age. And whereas Creel is the principle star, “Stroll on By” may be very a lot an ensemble piece, with performers Sasha Allen and Ryan Vasquez showing in featured roles.
“I felt like a stranger on the Met, a spot that was nearly actually made for white cisgender males, as a result of I’d solid myself on the earth as someone who didn’t belong there, didn’t have the eye span or the intelligence or no matter,” Creel, 47, informed HuffPost in an interview.
“[But] I believe the rationale we reply to sure items of artwork is as a result of we see ourselves there,” he stated. “So I began fascinated about my previous and being queer. Who am I meant to be on this world, on this area? Not simply the literal area of the Met, however the area I inhabit in my physique and on the earth and within the enterprise.”
An Ohio native, Creel rose to prominence within the 2002 stage adaptation of “Throughly Fashionable Millie,” for which he earned his first Tony Award nomination. He’s gone on to showcase his expertise, allure and chiseled visage in musicals like “Hair,” “The E book of Mormon,” “She Loves Me” and, most just lately, final 12 months’s revival of “Into the Woods.” In 2017, his profession hit an all-time excessive when he received a Tony for his sterling efficiency as Cornelius Hackl within the Bette Midler-led revival of “Hey, Dolly!”
From the surface, Creel’s success appeared unstoppable. By the point “Hey, Dolly” closed, nonetheless, he felt a way of creative malaise. As a homosexual man in his mid-40s, he grew to become acutely aware of how his age could be perceived each inside the LGBTQ+ neighborhood and in his youth-worshipping occupation. Then there was the heartbreak of a latest breakup with a boyfriend and, later, the COVID-19 pandemic, which left him and different reside performers with out a inventive outlet.
These introspections discovered their method into “Stroll on By,” first staged as a standalone live performance on the Met in 2021 and later reworked as a story piece. Although Creel has two albums of unique music to his credit score ― 2006’s “Goodtimenation” and 2012’s “Get Out” ― the present afforded him a full-fledged alternative for private catharsis.
The songs in “Stroll on By” evoke Billy Joel and George Michael. There are additionally playful winks at Whitney Houston, one among Creel’s childhood inspirations. Nonetheless, he acknowledges that followers who count on him to stay to the Broadway songbook “simply aren’t going to really feel it.”
“I used to be raised Midwestern, and we don’t discuss our emotions, politics, intercourse or faith,” he stated. “I’m speaking about all of these issues in a play. I’m making an attempt to energetically embody myself, and that’s onerous as a result of all that I’ve accomplished is tried to make characters that I’m not as actual as attainable. After I’m up there, once I’m within the second, I really feel ageless. I really feel just like the Midwestern child, mowing lawns and babysitting. I really feel just like the younger grownup who’s exploring New York Metropolis for the primary time after which falling in love.”
“Probably the most painful stuff I’ve skilled is within the present,” he stated. “[Some audience members] don’t need to hear about my life — they don’t assume it’s attention-grabbing or dramatic sufficient. However I can’t fear about that. I see it as a chance to attach with individuals somewhat than simply entertain them.”
The present’s sexiest, most electrifying quantity is “Palms on You,” through which Creel cheekily admits to discovering himself aroused by the sinewy male statues within the Met’s Nice Corridor, and traces his ideas again to his days as a closeted teen, flipping by way of males’s underwear and swimwear catalogs within the again aisles of bookstores and within the privateness of his bed room.
“I had a come-to-Jesus second, the place I used to be like, ‘Am I actually going to speak about the truth that I’m all of those bare statues and I’m turned on? Am I going to speak concerning the reality I need to fuck all of those statues?’ It’s actually about sexual disgrace,” he stated. “I used to be raised to imagine that who I’m and what I’m will not be solely abhorrent, however deserves to be condemned, due to faith and society. Now what I used to be again there doing. You have been, too, as a result of we’re all fascinated about screwing. Effectively, I’m not pushing it again anymore. I’m not going again to who I used to be earlier than.”
“Stroll on By” is slated to run in New York by way of Jan. 7, and most performances have already bought out. In the end, Creel wish to take the musical to Broadway, and he’s additionally thought out plans for a world tour, a documentary movie and a podcast based mostly on the present. Solely time will inform, after all, if these initiatives materialize — however for Creel, the present’s present iteration has already been a dream come true, in additional methods than one.
“My mother and father noticed the present for the primary time, and my dad, fairly fantastically, stated to my director: ‘I want I’d recognized the ache he was in when he was youthful. I didn’t know he wanted that assist,’” he stated. “And I believed, ‘How great is it that I can share a bit window into my expertise.’ I’ll rise up there and inform you the reality and attempt to open myself as much as you, so that you simply really feel empowered to confide in another person.”