Gavin Creel: Interview

By Jeff Walsh

This past Saturday, Gavin Creel was in New York City, talking to me on the phone.

18 hours after this interview, a car picked him up early in the morning, and took him to the airport, where he boarded a jet to London. In a few weeks, he and the rest of the Broadway tribe of Hair will open the show in the West End. Creel was Tony nominated for his turn as Claude, the conflicted hippie who has to decide what's important for him as the summer of love overlaps with the Vietnam War.

I reviewed the show back in January, but didn't realize at the time that Creel was openly gay. Having figured that out at some later point, we had a few interview attempts, but our schedules weren't lining up.

With the clock ticking on how long Creel would be on American soil, before bringing his magical show of peace and love to London, we finally made it happen. Here's what we said:

I know we're catching you at a busy time here.

Yeah, it's a little crazy, but I'm happy to talk to you.

And you're leaving for London tomorrow?

Yeah, tomorrow morning, the car comes at 6:15.

Yikes.

Yeah, it's crazy. I haven't seen 6:15 in like 10 years.

So what is this vibe like for you? On one hand, you've left the show on Broadway. But then you're opening in the West End in a few weeks.

The last month has been a very emotional time. A lot of up and down and craziness, but it all happens the way it's supposed to, and it's weird, because we closed the show and it was really emotional, but yet the show is still going on, and we're going on, but we had two weeks off with no work and just getting our lives together, so it was like this weird limbo.

And now we're going to rehearse for a bit and open it back up officially on the 14th. The whole thing is very bizarre. Once we settle back down into the show, I think we're all going to be like 'OK, here we go, now I know what we're doing.' Even though we're in a place that doesn't look like anything what we're used to.

Is the vibe very different between Broadway and the West End? You've done both...

Yeah, I did the West End for a year and a half. It is different, but it's like... I think if you were to go see a show, you'd think it was pretty much the same. But I found the audiences to be different, so it's going to be interesting to see how this very American show and the whole in-your-face vibe rolls in the West End. I don't know how it's going to do. We'll see...

I saw the show in December, and it's interesting how the show always seems like it's about to careen off the rails, with how much improv seems to be occuring, yet it always keeps moving forward.

It's one of those things where, when I first started rehearsals, I was like 'Are we about to careen off the rails? Is that what this show is?' But then, the more we rehearsed it, and the more we put it in front of an audience, you're like, 'Oh, OK, this is pretty electric and bizarre,' but the whole vibe was to arrange it in a way that it felt like we were just making it up on the spot, but actually most of it is very staged and very planned.

It's just the beautiful freedom of an actor where you're not married to saying things or doing things exactly the same every time. That's kind of a beautiful freedom. It will be interesting. Plus, the biggest character in the play is the audience, so with a completely different temperament and nationality, it's going to be a new show all over again. So, we're kind of starting over in a few weeks, and it's going to be great.