If you were at The Kennedy Center on Thursday night, you likely noticed the commotion outside the Terrace Theater just before 7:30. Everyone in what promised to be a packed audience was gathered around a small poster to take selfies before entering. The cause of all this commotion? A live performance by Tony Award winner Gavin Creel.
“Renée Fleming VOICES,” a Kennedy Center concert series dedicated to showcasing vocal performances across genres, has hosted many famous and innovative artists. As Kennedy Center Artistic Advisor at Large, Fleming has described her series as an opportunity to celebrate talent and expose audiences to new music and musical styles. Fleming explains, “From the classical song recital to cabaret, bluegrass, rap, and world music, the common thread will be vocalism of exceptional quality or innovation representing a diverse range of styles.”
The entire show was equal parts breathtaking and refreshing.
On October 3rd Creel, accompanied by Broadway pianist and music director Mary-Mitchell Campbell, added his voice to Fleming’s already star-studded series. Though the “VOICES” series typically highlights one artist per performance, Creel emphasized that it was not a one man show; “everything we do is a duet,” he explained as he introduced Campbell. Best known for his performance as Cornelius Hackl in “Hello, Dolly!,” Creel has held key roles in famous shows on and off-Broadway and has also released three original albums. Campbell has directed the music for numerous Broadway shows in addition to her work as an orchestrator and professor.
Throughout the evening Creel and Campbell played a mix of Broadway favorites, classic tunes, and Creel’s own music. As expected, songs like Herman’s Before the Parade Passes By and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s I Have Confidence made an appearance, but Sondheim’s Another Hundred People was the best performance of the evening. Creel used the song to frame the story of his first trip to New York as a drama student from Findlay, Ohio. Another highlight was Creel’s original song Dave Sent Me a Ticket where he used handwritten posters to turn the performance into an audience sing-a-long.
The entire show was equal parts breathtaking and refreshing. Unsurprisingly, a Broadway staple like Creel has incredible vocal control, but hearing him seamlessly transition from powerful belts to landing clear, soft notes was stunning. Despite his wildly successful career, Creel was surprisingly candid about his childhood and self-doubt. The entire show was almost a staged singing of an autobiographical musical, replete with Bette Midler stories and pantomimed bicycle rides. Though a few of his comments fell flat, Creel’s self-deprecating jokes mostly added to his charm. He kept the show going with his infectious energy and just generally seemed happy to be there.
Normally, it would be difficult for only two people without a costume or set to captivate an audience for an entire show, but Creel and Campbell did just that. Their talent and well-curated songs earned them two standing ovations, though their well-placed, crowd-pleasing references to D.C. certainly didn’t hurt.
Running Time: About 1.5 hours with no intermission.
Renée Fleming’s VOICES continues at the Kennedy Center in November 2019. Ticket information can be found here or by calling 202-467-4600.