March 16, 1949 – Victor Garber:
”You can only do so much theatre…”
The popular, Tony Award winning revival of Jerry Herman‘s classic musical Hello, Dolly! went through some major changes in casting in January 2018, when three-time Tony Award winner Bernadette Peters took over for Bette Midler in the title role, along with Tony nominee Victor Garber as Horace Vandergelder replacing David Hyde Pierce, tough acts to follow but Peters and Garber seemed perfect for the roles and perfect for each other. The pair received rapturous reviews and kept the revival running until July 2018, when Midler and Hyde Pierce returned to play Dolly and Horace for a month before closing.
I first noticed Garber, as so many did, when he sang and danced his way through the film version of the hippy Jesus musical Godspell (1973), where Garber is seen sporting a large afro. Less than a year later, I would be on stage in the same musical and I would have an afro that rivaled Garber’s. It was a thing in the early 1970s.
Gosh, I just love Canadians, and Garber was born in London, Ontario. He began acting when he was nine years old with a local children’s theater troupe. When he was just 16, he began studying Theatre at the University Of Toronto.
His first professional role was the leading role of Jesus in the original Toronto production of Godspell in 1972. Amazingly, his fellow cast members included Gilda Radner, Eugene Levy, Dave Thomas, Martin Short, and Andrea Martin, with Paul Shaffer as musical director and pianist. Garber’s performance was so impressive that he was cast in the film adaptation the next year.
He began his career as a folk singer, performing in the 1960s with a band, The Sugar Shop. The group had moderate success, with four top 40 hits in Canada, and they performed on The Ed Sullivan Show and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.
An extremely versatile actor, Garber has had a very successful, impressive career on stage, appearing in classics, dramas, comedies and musicals including Noël Coward’s Present Laughter on Broadway in 2010, plus George and Ira Gershwin’s Of Thee I Sing at Encores! (2006). He starred on Broadway in plays and musicals, including Arcadia (1995), Damn Yankees (1994), as John Wilkes Booth in Stephen Sondheim‘s original production of Assassins (1990), Merrily We Roll Along (1990), Lend Me A Tenor (1989), George Bernard Shaw’s The Devil’s Disciple (1988), Noises Off (1983), Little Me (1982), They’re Playing Our Song (1979), and The Shadow Box (1977).
I saw him on Broadway as Anthony in the original production of Sondheim’s masterpiece Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street (1979), Deathtrap (1978), and Art (1998). All very different roles, all performed with real charisma and skill. Plus, Garber is really nice to look at.
In addition to his noted stage career, Garber has an impressive list of television credits, with roles as a regular on Justice (2006), ReGenesis (2004-08), Eli Stone (2008-09), Glee (2009-15) and Flashpoint (2008-12). He is probably most famous for playing Jack Bristow on ABC’s Alias (2001-06) which brought him three Emmy Award nominations. His guest starring roles are too numerous to mention, but I especially liked his turn as Frasier’s butler on Frasier in 2000. In the 2014-15 season, he was on something called The Flash, which is not about my male menopause.
In films, his most memorable role was as Thomas Andrews, the ship’s chief architect in the little seen Titanic (1997). He was also in the popular Sleepless In Seattle (1993) opposite Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, but without me, plus The First Wives Club (1996) starring Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn, and Midler, and Legally Blonde (2001) with Reese Witherspoon. In 2012, he appeared in the Academy Award winning Argo, about the Iran hostage crisis where Garber portrays real life Canadian Ambassador to Iran Kenneth D. Taylor.
My personal favorite Garber film roles include playing Mayor George Mascone in Gus Van Sant’s Milk (2008), Daddy Warbucks in Annie (1999), and Sid Luft in Life With Judy Garland: Me And My Shadows (2001). We even share a film credit; we both have small, but funny, roles in the delightful Singles (1992).
For the first COVID Christmas, Garber appeared in the sappy, yet heartfelt, gay-themed holiday flick, Happiest Season (2020) an American holiday romantic comedy-drama film directed by Clea DuVall, with a swell cast consisting of Kristen Stewart, Mackenzie Davis, Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza, Dan Levy, and Mary Steenburgen.
Garber departed from DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow, based on the characters of DC Comics. For four seasons he has played Dr. Martin Stein / Firestorm, crossing over to the series Supergirl and Arrow. He had a sly, arch turn as a celebrity chef on ABC’s Modern Family.
He certainly does work a lot, but Garber has never really been publicly open about his gayness until he brought his longtime partner, the unnaturally handsome artist Ranier Andreesen, as his date to the Screen Actors Guild Awards in 2013. After 16-years together, the couple tied the knot in Canada in autumn 2015. Notoriously quiet about his private life, Garber is surprisingly open since the wedding, with plenty of photographs and comments on Instagram. The couple are nearly too handsome for my eyes. They live together in Greenwich Village.
Here is a little tally of the things Garber and I have in common: we both once had impressive afros, we both performed in Godspell in the early 1970s, we both studied at famed HB Studios in NYC, we both had those roles in the film Singles, and we both have handsome artist husbands. Day By Day, Three Things I Pray! I think that is enough in common for us to be buddies, don’t you?