Gavin Creel hopes his rock-infused take on “Something Wonderful” from the musical “The King and I” captures a modern view of love while honoring the power of the original.
The Tony-winning actor and singer unveiled a music video for the song on Friday as part of the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization’s “R&H Goes Pop!” YouTube series.
When “The King and I” debuted on Broadway in 1951, “Something Wonderful” was sung by the king of Siam’s head wife, Lady Thiang, to British teacher Anna in hopes of persuading her to accept the king for what he was, flaws and all.
Creel, 43, told HuffPost he was drawn to the song because it captures “so much pain, but beauty at the same time.” His decision to sing the lyrics with their original male nouns and pronouns isn’t intended as a “political” statement, he said, but simply reflects his authentic self as a gay man.
“I was fighting for marriage equality in my 30s and coming out professionally when I was 33,” he said. “Ten years ago, I might have wanted to do something a little more explosive and unapologetic.”
These days, Creel said, “I still want to be able to speak my truth. It’s still my story, but now it’s just quieter.”
“It’s really easy for us to think, oh, [composers Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II] were sweet and it was a Pollyanna time where everybody was kind and the world was a better place,” he continued. “But these dudes were badasses. So [this project] is reminding young audiences that they were producing a tumultuous, tense, terrifying, sexual, vibrant art form that people were blown away by. It was ‘Hamilton’ times 5,000.”
“Something Wonderful” kicks off a busy year for Creel, who won a Tony Award in 2017 for “Hello, Dolly!” and is beloved by Broadway audiences for his roles in “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and “Hair,” among other musicals.
Later this month, he’ll begin performances in the London production of “Waitress,” opposite Sara Bareilles. And this summer, he returns to the New York stage for what may be his most personal project to date.
Slated for June 22, “Walk on Through: Confessions of a Museum Novice” is billed as an evening of all-original music inspired by Creel’s experiences at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where the concert will be staged.
If “Walk on Through” succeeds, Creel is hopeful that the new songs, which he describes as “theatrical pop,” will be captured for posterity on an album that will form the basis of his next touring act.
“The theater is where I was made and born, and there’s no reason to turn my back on it,” he said. “I’m going to try to blow it up from the inside and like make my own thing from there.”