At 40, “Hair” and “The Book of Mormon” star Gavin Creel says he’s too old to resume leading the Broadway fight for LGBTQ rights in a political era again dominated by GOP conservatives.
Creel — who plays Fort Lauderdale this week with SiriusXM host Seth Rudetsky — co-founded Broadway Impact in 2008, just as Barack Obama became America’s president and Californians voted to ban gay marriage in their state.
“After Obama was elected president, the same day Proposition 8 was passed, there was this fire in our belly,” Creel said. Now, with marriage equality declared a legal right by the U.S. Supreme Court and Donald Trump about to become Obama’s successor, Creel doesn’t “even know what word to say.”
Then he finds one: “‘Insanity.’ That is the new declaration from our country in which we all now have to follow. ... The most powerful thing we can do is get involved locally. Help our local community and become community activists in our own smaller circle.”
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Creel, whose Broadway Impact raised money and lobbied several years to support same-sex marriage, doesn’t believe Trump wants to reverse course on that issue. “We’re going to just wake up and keep going, I suppose. Hopefully, as far as equality goes, the law is the law and to undo that — I don’t believe this person who is going to be our new president wants to undo that, necessarily.”
And if he does, it’s time for others to rally the troops, Creel said.
“I think we’re going to get loud again, but I’m going to be a follower,” he said. “I’m going to go where they tell me. I’m not certain I’m going to be the one leading the charge. I may just link arms with those who tell me where to go.”
Says Creel: “I’m not 33, not young anymore. I’m a little exhausted and have other responsibilities.”
Creel doesn’t have as much time for activism because he’s so busy in his professional life. After his Tony-nominated roles in “Thoroughly Modern Millie” (2002) and “Hair” (2009), he spent nearly three years starring in “The Book of Mormon,” both in London and on Broadway. Earlier this year, Creel co-starred in Broadways revival of “She Loves Me.” And in the spring, he will co-star as Cornelius Hackl in Bette Midler’s big return to Broadway, the revival of Jerry Herman’s “Hello, Dolly!”
In his first South Florida appearance since 2011, Creel performs Friday night with Rudetsky for the third season opener of the Broadway Concert Series at Parker Playhouse.
“He interviews [me] and talks about the business and career, then we get up and get to share songs about what we’re talking about,” Creel said. “It’s so much fun because Seth has such an incredible following from his own work, his hosting of his amazing radio shows.”
Just before “She Loves Me” closed in July, the show was recorded for high-definition screenings in movie theaters, as well as streaming video on BroadwayHD.com.
“It’s a new territory for the art form, certainly. People are likely nervous about what it will do: Will it help or it hinder? But I think it’s all a good thing right now. The more exposure we can get to people, to get excited about musical theater, the better,” Creel said. ... “When I was young, I couldn't afford to pay $189 to go see a “Hamilton” or whatever, so I would have welcomed an opportunity to go to my favorite movie theater and pay 20 bucks and see a big Broadway musical starring Jane Krakowski, Laura Benanti and Zach Levi.”
Creel is confident that modern musicals like Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton,” “Dear Evan Hansen” and “The Comet of 1812” starring Josh Groban are drawing young audiences to the theater.
“I was just in New Orleans at a concert,” Creel said. “There were a couple of hundred people there. I thought, ‘Wow, who are you? How do you know who I am?’ I am not on television. Not out there in people's faces all the time. These are dedicated theater fans.”
If you go
▪ What: Gavin Creel and Seth Rudetsky in concert.
▪ When: 8 p.m. Friday.
▪ Where: Parker Playhouse at Holiday Park, 707 NE Eighth St., Fort Lauderdale.
▪ Rudetsky’s Broadway Concert Series at Parker Playhouse continues 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 17, with Tony, Emmy and Golden Globe nominee Matthew Morrison; and 8 p.m. Saturday, April 1, with Tony-winning comic actress Andrea Martin.
▪ Tickets: All shows $37–$123 through Ticketmaster, www.Ticketmaster.com, or at Parker Playhouse, www.ParkerPlayhouse.com. There is a 10 percent discount for patrons who purchase tickets for all three shows. Call 954-462-0222 for more information.