DETROIT – Reeve Carney has a pretty extensive resume. Not only is he currently on Broadway in the smash hit musical Hadestown eight times a week, he was recently seen in House of Gucci as Tom Ford and originated the role of Peter Parker in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark on Broadway.
Now he’s heading to Detroit for one night only to perform a collection of songs traditionally sung by Broadway divas, a challenge he has never done before.
We chat with Reeve as he gets ready for his solo show with Cabaret 313.
We’re really excited to have you here in Detroit.
I’m excited to be back. I would say it’s got to be almost 15 years since I’ve played in Detroit.
Do you remember anything about your last time performing in the D?
I played Pontiac at this old church that had been converted into a theater. I actually played guitar for my friend Jonny Lang. But I love Detroit.
What are you excited for in your upcoming cabaret here?
I normally perform original songs because I’m a composer and songwriter myself, and I occasionally do a cover here and there, but I was excited by the challenge of performing a more traditional cabaret. It’s a totally new set of songs that I have not performed before. This will be the first audience hearing them, which should be really nice. I’ll have things from the classical music cannon. It’s all-female songs by Broadway divas. That’s the theme of this particular show.
That’s an exciting challenge.
It’s been fun learning them. I’m realizing how much I love Stephen Sondheim because I haven’t seen a lot of his shows live. I gravitated towards a lot of his songs without realizing that he had composed some of them. He is obviously famous for writing musicals all on his own, but he has also been a collaborator in a number of shows. And I wasn’t aware of that.
You actually play a lot of shows at Green Room 42 while also performing in Hadestown full time. What do you enjoy about doing these intimate shows?
When you’re on Broadway, we’re performing 416 shows per year, eight shows a week. It’s more than most rock and roll musicians perform, honestly, probably in four years. Obviously, I can’t perform the amount of shows of my own material as I would if I weren’t on Broadway, so I try to perform at least once a month.
You’ve been with Hadestown since the very beginning, 5 years now, how is it going over there at the Walter Kerr?
It’s great. We have a new cast member, Lillias White, who’s brought a totally new energy to the show which has been so amazing. It’s great because I love a long run of a show. It gives you a chance to learn. It probably comes from being a composer. My brain works that way more than, say, a jazz improviser. I’m a little bit more into fine tuning and taking my time with things. So for me, a long run gives me the opportunity to do that. You can’t just rely on the energy of the first few shows once you’re in a long run. I think tonight is our 835th show.
How do you keep it fresh for yourself?
Probably just the sense of obligation to myself and always wanting to do your best work. It’s understanding that the audience paid a lot of money to see this, so you better give them the most amazing show you can give them. I think about myself in the audience, I want to see people bringing it. The thing I look for the most when I go to see a show is whether the actors are engaged. If an actor wanted to phone it in, they certainly could. But I’m not interested in that.
You’ve released your own album and several songs. When writing your own music, what is your creative process like?
I almost always begin with something on an instrument, either piano or guitar, and a melody. Lyrics usually form out of those melodies for me, but occasionally I’ve written a song with the lyrics first, but it’s rare. It’s quite a long process. I have songs that I’ve probably spent hundreds of hours on over the course of many years to complete. Probably the longest is a seven-year process. But I tend to write a lot of songs at once, so I might have 12 things I’m working on and one of them will take many years to finish for whatever reason.
Who are your biggest influences musically?
Oh, so many. The first person who ever really inspired me through the radio was Billy Joel. Then I got really heavily into Queen and Aerosmith. Then the Beatles after that. If I had to pick a favorite band, it would certainly be the Beatles. But I also love traditional musical theater. There’s so much great stuff from the 40s and beyond. I grew up playing a lot of jazz. I went to jazz school for guitar, but I was playing in blues clubs at night. I love B.B. King, Freddie King, Albert Collins, and even Jimi Hendrix.
You’re involved in so many different creative projects, like House of Gucci. How do you decide about picking which ones are right for you?
I’ve noticed that the things that seem to be right for me seem to come to me a little bit more easily. Whereas the things that are not right for me, you end up auditioning for and never hearing back about. I’m trying to figure out the balance about how much work to put into projects that I think may not really be right for me at all. Fortunately, the work that I have gotten has been really, really amazing.
Reeve Carney will be performing at the Chrysler Black Box in Detroit on Sunday, November 13, 2022 at 4:30 p.m. and a second show at 6:45 p.m. More information and tickets are available at Cabaret313.org.