Recent Comments


    Sam Gravitte: Born for Broadway

    By David Landis–

    His Mom and Dad are both theatre and TV stars, so is it any surprise that singer/actor Sam Gravitte gravitated towards a life on Broadway? At 27 years young, he’s already played the leading role of Fiyero in Wicked on the Great White Way, the Jimmy Fallon role in Almost Famous at San Diego’s Old Globe Theater, and a one-man show at New York City’s Birdland. Luckily for us, he’ll be heading to California January 29 to present his cabaret show “Songs That Raised Me” at the Live at the Orinda series. San Francisco Bay Times reporter David Landis had the chance to speak with Sam by phone prior to his Bay Area concert date. He shares some of his thespian inspiration below.

    David Landis: What do you have in store for your concert at the Orinda Theatre?

    Sam Gravitte: It’s going to be a similar but newer iteration of my Birdland show, with some tweaks here and there. I’m working with Emily Whitaker who will be playing the piano, and jazz guitarist Ravi Campbell. I had this idea while doing Wicked in January 2022. I wanted to do an evening of songs that I loved that felt good in my body. It was a way to refill my artistic cup in the middle of doing a longer run of shows where you do the same thing every night. I wanted to expand my creative palette. I thought, “Why not do a solo show?” It’s way more work than I imagined, but it was a ton of fun to put together. It happened with Jake Landau, my music director at Birdland. He pushed me in cool directions. I was originally going to do an evening of standards. My mom, Debbie, sings. So, I grew up with Frank and Ella and those kinds of voices. I wanted to pay homage to that. Jake wanted to take it a step further. “How can we make this engaging and theatrical, and do an evening that reveals something about you? What could be different?” Jake said, “Let’s do a song cycle, take people out of the cabaret world, show them what you do as an actor in a show, and take them on a journey.” The song cycle is called “The Coin Toss,” and it’s a condensed piece of theatre in the middle of the cabaret show that could stand on its own.

    Landis: What does it reveal about you?

    Gravitte: (laughing) That’s why you have to come to see it. One of the prompts is, “Why am I an alien?” I’m trying to explore my artistic tendencies and curiosity and answer the question, “What makes Sam Sam?” That question ties nicely into “Songs That Raised Me.” I was raised by two actors. That came with a certain set of expectations, and rules that were different from most people I grew up around. I was consuming art and music in a deliberate way from a young age, and it crafted my tastes differently. You’ll hear standards, an Appalachian folk song, Broadway – it will feel cohesive in a cool way. What I’m trying to point out is how all these various tastes and interests coalesce into a human being.

    Landis: Tell me a little bit about your background. Where were you raised?

    Gravitte: I have a twin sister and an older brother. I was born in LA, and lived there 2 years before moving to Connecticut, where I grew up in Ridgefield. That town was full of parents commuting to New York for corporate jobs like finance and IBM. On the other hand, my mom was flying to London to sing with the symphony orchestra there. From a very young age, I thought, “What’s her version of life like? That seems very fun and interesting.” I idolized what my parents did. But I was lucky because I grew up with the first person experience of the difficulties and joys of being an actor. I came into this life as a professional armed with a little more resilence which I saw built into my parents. My parents were deliberate to encourage me to explore a lot of different interests. I played football, basketball, and lacrosse (which I played in college). I tried to be the best student. I was recruited to play lacrosse at Princeton. My parents loved that I was interested in being a student, doing sports, and theatre. “The best actor is a smart actor,” my dad Beau told me. “All of that will show up onstage as an actor.” I majored in public economics and international affairs, but I ended up getting my degree in anthropology. It’s a creative lens I can bring into a rehearsal room. At Princeton, the most important thing I learned was how to learn. That’s something you can bring into everything you do. As an actor creating a role, at the center is the research part of it – in order to inhabit the role in an honest and full way. The research part of it is something I look forward to. Being armed with more various life knowledge and reference points helps me along the way.

    Landis: You played Fiyero on Broadway in Wicked (one of my favorite shows). Do you have a choice moment from that show? And, have you met its composer, Stephen Schwartz?

    Gravitte: Yes, I did meet Stephen. He and my mom have been singing together for years. The moment that sticks out to me was re-opening Wicked. It was an incredibly special experience. To stand on stage after 18 months of Broadway being closed, and be one of the first shows to open, was extraordinary. I’ll hold onto that forever. It’s seared into my mind in a really great way. You’re hit with a tidal wave of emotion after the industry had been eviscerated. To be a part of the slew of shows that was inaugurating the theatre was a privilege.

    Landis: And to have that show be Wicked – a unique show, about two women heroines – must also have been inspiring.

    Gravitte: Yes. I think I’m lucky that I have 2 women in my life that I love so deeply that support me so powerfully: my Mom and my twin sister. I remember the first time I saw Wicked, I was 12; I saw it with my family. My sister was crying at intermission and couldn’t stop. I didn’t understand it at the time. Her experience was one where she as a young woman saw two powerful women in roles in a loving relationship onstage. She saw them stepping into their power and doing what they felt was right – and doing it all through Stephen’s epic score, which was overwhelming. As Fiyero, my job is showing up to support those two women every night. One of my favorite moments is kneeling down and singing, “As Long As You’re Mine.” In a show with a lot to look at, in that moment you find two characters in stillness together onstage. It’s an outlier in a spectacular show.

    Landis: Your fans want to know. Are you single or married?

    Gravitte: I am not married, I’m sort of newly dating someone. It’s been going well, somebody back home. It’s very new.

    Landis: What’s your favorite current show on Broadway?

    Gravitte: I’m excited for the revival of Sweeney Todd that’s about to open. The most brilliant score ever written, it will be with the original Jonathan Tunick orchestrations. My deep hope is that Josh Groban will not only be great – he’ll be great as well as terrifying. Ain’t No Mo (now closed) is one of the best pieces of contemporary writing I’ve ever seen. Some Like It Hot is a fantastic ode to more classical Broadway, a totally fun evening in the theatre.

    Landis: Do you have a favorite singer/actor?

    Gravitte: Jeremy Jordan has a transcendent voice; I’ve tried to emulate him. Cynthia Erivo is someone I admire as a singer/actor, and a person who is so intentional about everything that she does as an artist. I’ve always admired actors who can move between media – like Bradley Cooper, Adam Driver, Meryl Streep, and Viola Davis – actors who do films and come and do theatre, too. That is an ideal life, where you can go, shoot movies, do your creative work, and come home to the stage – and then work that similar set of muscles with a live audience.

    Landis: This is your West Coast debut, yes?

    Gravitte: Yes, it’s my West Coast concert debut. One of my best friends in the world lives in the Bay Area, so I’m excited to see him (a teammate from lacrosse). I have a ton of friends and family out in the Bay Area. If I didn’t love New York or have to be in LA for work, I would be in the Bay because of the weather. Give me 63 degrees every day of the year!

    Landis: You just received a Broadway World Cabaret award nomination for Best Debut for your show at Birdland. That’s got to be a thrill for a newcomer like you?

    Gravitte: I didn’t know about it until Michael Williams (producer at Live at the Orinda) told me! I’m grateful to Jim Caruso and the folks at Birdland for helping me produce the show. I’m excited to see what I discover this time out with the show.

    Landis: What do you like to do in your spare time?

    Gravitte: I hold onto the nerd within that got me through Princeton. I love to read. I’m currently reading (psychologist) William James. I’m also reading Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath – it’s so hopeful. In addition, I love to bake and cook. I’m a steadfast fan of the “Great British Baking Show”: it’s perfectly delightful wholesome nonsense.

    Landis: What’s next for Sam?

    Gravitte: I’m also a writer. I have some things in the pipeline that I’m excited about to actualize in the next year. I’m looking forward to TV and film. I’m working on becoming the best artist I can become. And, I’m grateful to the Orinda for having me. It will be great to escape the New York winter, and have a California jaunt.

    For tickets and information to Sam Gravitte’s show January 29 at the Orinda Theatre, visit:

    David Landis studied piano at Northwestern University, worked at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre and Ravinia Festival, and also at the San Francisco Symphony. He even once played Lysander in Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” A lifelong theatre and cabaret enthusiast, he spends his spare time playing Sondheim songs for himself at home. In his other life, he writes The Gay Gourmet column for the San Francisco Bay Times.

    Arts & Entertainment
    Published on January 12, 2023