Gavin Lee, who made his Broadway debut in a Tony-nominated turn as Bert in the 2006 premiere of Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s Mary Poppins, can currently be seen in the new musical SpongeBob SquarePants, based on the beloved animated TV show of the same name. The English-born Lee was also Tony-nominated for his tap-happy performance as Squidward in the critically acclaimed new musical, which will conclude its run at the Palace Theatre September 16.
We recently asked the actor, who also played Thenardier in the most recent Broadway revival of Les Misérables, to pen a list of his favorite theatregoing experiences.
Ramin Karimloo in Les Misérables
The 15-minute prologue alone was enough to make me want to jump up and hand him an award on the opening night of the revival. It's so difficult to really make an impression in a role that people are deeply familiar with, but Ramin was always so confident and so remarkably spot on with every note and nuance of that character—it was glorious to watch. Was very honored, a year later, to get to play Thenardier opposite his perfect Jean Valjean.
Elena Roger in Evita
I'll admit I never saw Elena on Broadway because I had seen her play Eva Peron seven years earlier in the West End production, and I thought she was everything. From her spunky young Eva dancing her socks off and belting brilliantly in “Buenos Aires” to her old, frail, heartbreaking Eva in “You Must Love Me.” Could not take my eyes off of her.
John Stamos in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
I didn't know this musical when I went to see this brilliant Broadway revival, but ever since seeing Mr. Stamos' portrayal of J. Pierrepont Finch, it's always been my answer to “What role do you wish you could play?” (I'm far too old now!) His performance was spot on. Every time he turned to the audience with that subtle, smirky, oh-so-innocent grin, when some plot line had gone his way, he made the audience howl.
Mercedes Ruehl in The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?
Mercedes Ruehl's performance in this play has stuck with me for 15 years. I loved her portrayal of Stevie, discovering that her husband was having a love affair... with a goat(!). As one reviewer wrote: “Ms. Ruehl brilliantly delivers the playwright's lines to heartrendingly tragicomic effect.” That was exactly it, her performance flipping back and forth from gut-wrenching to hilarious. Loved it.
Lisa O'Hare in A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder
She looked stunning. She sang gorgeously. Her sense of period and class were impeccable. And, she was so deliciously narcissistic in the role.
Aaron Lazar in A Little Night Music
I know Bernadette Peters was the big draw for this production (and she was fabulous!), but it was Mr. Lazar's performance as Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm that sticks with me. His arrogance and pompousness! His clueless oblivion to the feelings of others around him! When I met Aaron about a year later, I was unsurprised to find him nothing like this character—made me value and appreciate his performance even more.
Stephanie J. Block in Falsettos
I have loved the original recording of Falsettos for 20 years, knew every lyric, and was so looking forward to finally seeing it onstage. And then my favorite part of the show—a song that I didn't know never made it onto the original cast recording! Ms. Block's perfect, perfect, perfect rendition of “I'm Breaking Down.” She performed this number with just enough of that madness behind the eyes! You could see Trina just trying to hold it all together when all she wanted to do was scream and attack someone with that kitchen knife. Fantastic.
Hugh Jackman in Oklahoma!
I was lucky enough to be in this Royal National Theatre revival with Hugh. This was about a year or two before he became Wolverine! You could see he had the qualities to become a huge star from day one of rehearsals. His Curly was everything you could wish for—tall, handsome as hell, gorgeous, rich voice to sing that Rodgers and Hammerstein score. He is the perfect leading man.
The entire cast of Tommy
This show! So different from anything I'd ever seen before on Broadway and remains a favorite, not only because of the amazingly creative design and direction but because of the totally awesome cast led by Michael Cerveris.
Laura Benanti in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
Ms. Benanti's ditzy Spanish bimbo, Candela, stole the show. She created such a great character, so funny, and her song “Model Behavior”—frenetic and fabulous.