Openly gay actor Garett Hawe remembers the moment he wanted to become a Broadway performer.
“I was 12 years old when I went to New York City for the first time,” says Hawe, a New Hampshire native. “We saw ‘Miss Saigon’ and that was when I realized people made a living doing this. I fell in love with New York City and Broadway.”Hawe performed on stage for the first time at the age of nine. His mother, who was a dance teacher in Hawe’s small New Hampshire town, had a friend who was choreographing a local production of “Oliver.”
“From an early age my parents wanted me to try a bunch of different things to see what I had a passion for,” Hawe says. “Sports, dance, theater. So my mom said ‘A friend of mine is doing this production of ‘Oliver,’ do you want to try out?’ and I said sure.”
Hawe fell in love and with the support of his parents performed throughout middle and high school. That support carried over when Hawe came out at the age of 17.
“I was extremely lucky,” he says. “I had a supportive family and for them it was a non-issue. My friends, who were all theater kids, were very accepting. I know how lucky I was coming out and how rare that kind of total support is.”
Hawe got his first big break when he was hired onto the ensemble, and later the character of Neleus, in the national touring company of “Mary Poppins,” but it wouldn’t be long before he transitioned from the touring stage to Broadway.
“I was on the tour for 11 months when my associate director had put in my ear that if Neleus opened up in the Broadway show they would love to have me transfer. So I was hoping and praying that that would eventually happen and then it did,” Hawe says.
Hawe joined the cast of “Mary Poppins” on Broadway and remembers how surreal that first night felt.
“I remember looking out into the audience and taking a mental snapshot, I remember it so vividly,” Hawe says. “Even to this day I feel so lucky that I get to do this for a living. I have so many pinch-me moments. It’s still as magical to me as it was the first time.”
Hawe has gone on to perform in the original Broadway productions of “Newsies” and “Matilda the Musical.” He most recently performed in the Broadway revival of “Carousel” where Hawe played Enoch Snow, Jr. and appeared in the ensemble.
Being in “Carousel” led to Hawe having what he calls his best day in theater to date, appearing on the Tony Awards.
“It’s an exhausting day, but exciting,” Hawe recalls. “You get up early, you go to Radio City and do a full dress rehearsal at like 9 a.m. Then they bus you back to your theater and you do the matinee of your show. Then as soon as you finish you eat, get back into costume, they bus you back to Radio City where you do your performance and then they bus you back out so you can get out of costume and get ready for the after party. It is a marathon of a day but it is also one of those days where you think, ‘I have dreamt of this day since I was a child and now it’s happening.’ I use to watch the Tony Awards when I was a kid and now I am performing on the show.”
Hawe has also performed in six national tours, including the current tour of “Hello Dolly!” starring Broadway legend Betty Buckley. “Hello Dolly!” is playing now through Dec. 2 at the Dr. Phillips Center in Orlando and then moves to the Straz Center in Tampa Dec. 4-9.
“Hello Dolly!” is one of the most successful musicals in theater history. First produced on Broadway back in 1964, it won a total of 10 Tony Awards and the show’s original cast recording has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
The musical follows the tale of Dolly Gallagher Levi, a widow-turned-matchmaker, who travels to Yonkers, New York to find a mate for the wealthy old miser Horace Vandergelder. In tow, Dolly brings Horace’s niece Ermengarde, and two of Horace’s clerks. Hawe plays Ambrose Kemper.
“Ambrose is a struggling artist who wishes to marry Ermengarde,” Hawe says. “As Dolly is playing matchmaker she starts to discover love for herself again. Then, hilarity and hijinks ensue.”
“Hello Dolly!” was revived on Broadway in 2017 and starred Bette Midler as the widowed matchmaker, where she earned a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical. The role of Dolly has always been a juicy one for Broadway and musical legends to take on and includes the likes of Carol Channing, Barbra Streisand and Bernadette Peters. Broadway Across America saw no reason to not get a legend to perform in the national tour and brought Buckley on board.
Buckley won a Tony Award for her performance of Grizabella in the original Broadway production of “Cats” in 1983 and starred as Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard” in both New York and London. She is an American Theater Hall of Fame inductee.
“One of the most incredible things about working with her is that she has zero ego about her,” Hawe says. “She came in on the first day to dig in and work with us and make the most of this role, and she is incredible in it. She brings an honesty and vulnerability to this role that you rarely see. She is hilarious and that voice. She is an amazing leader of this show and it is such an honor to be able to work with her and be on the same stage. She was born to play Dolly.”
“Hello Dolly!” is playing now through Dec. 2 at the Walt Disney Theater at Dr. Phillips Center in Orlando. Tickets are available at DrPhillipsCenter.org. It then moves to the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa Dec. 4-9. Tickets are available for those dates at StrazCenter.org.