If you’ve ever wandered down the rabbit hole of watching musical theater YouTube videos, you’ve probably ended up at Gavin Creel and Aaron Tveit’s 2016 performance of “Take Me or Leave Me.” Their take on Rent was done for MCC Theater’s Miscast Gala, a regular font of viral videos thanks to its nifty gimmick of having performers take on songs they wouldn’t typically get cast to play in a full-length show. Both of the actors are well-known Broadway performers. Creel won a Tony in 2017 for Hello, Dolly! and Tveit will all-but certainly win one for Moulin, Rouge! whenever last year’s awards finally happen. The duet has all the elements of something destined to do well online: A recognizable number, deep commitment to the bit, lots of belting, and as Creel added, “America is obsessed with just a tiny bit of latent homoeroticism, let’s just say it.”
So, for this year’s remote online version of the Gala – the second in as many years, due to the COVID pandemic – Tveit and Creel reunited for a second duet, this time taking on “In His Eyes” from Jekyll & Hyde. They chose the number from a list of suggestions from MCC co-artistic director Bernie Telsey and director Scott Galina. Creel wasn’t familiar with the song, but Jekyll & Hyde was the first show Tveit saw on Broadway. “I bought the cast album and I’ve been singing along to Linda Eder since I had that album,” Tveit said, though they split up the roles – with Tveit as Emma and Creel as Lucy – based simply on who had to sing higher. “That’s the part that Aaron’s going to do,” Creel said. “If it’s gonna screlt, old Tveit’s gonna do it.”
As the end of the above clip reveals (stop reading here if you haven’t watched it yet) when Creel slips into the same frame with Tveit, the two didn’t actually tape their parts remotely. They were working together in the same COVID pod on a project they told Vulture they couldn’t reveal yet, and so filmed their duet together in a cramped rented office space, flipping around a blue and gray backdrop to create the impression that they were in separate rooms. Each of them hid off camera while the other taped his part. “I would look over and Aaron would be shaking his head,” Creel said. “We were laughing at how ridiculous the whole thing was,” Tveit added.
The clip ends with a big reunion and a faked-out kiss, which, again, gotta have a whiff of homoeroticism, but is also meant to leave something more to be covered in another Tveit-Creel performance. “This sets us up for a third,” Tveit said.” “We had to leave something on the table.” Tveit said. “We’re bringing you your Return of the Jedi,” Creel promised.