Broadway Actor Eli Gelb Discusses His Position in New Play “Stereophonic”


The day earlier than the world shut down for the COVID-19 pandemic, Eli Gelb auditioned for a manufacturing of “Stereophonic.” Now, 4 years later, he’s making his Broadway debut within the present on the Golden Theater. 

“Stereophonic” follows a fictional Fleetwood Mac-esque band and two sound engineers over the course of a yr as they wrestle to make an album, handle poisonous relationships, navigate the drug-filled ’70s rock world and in the end, develop up. Gelb performs the lovable stoner sound engineer Grover, who maybe grows probably the most over the yr. Gelb says he fell in love with the 220-something web page script instantly.

“I had a few days to learn it and put together,” he recollects of his 2020 audition. “I type of needed to skim it and I used to be like, ‘I believe I like this factor.’” 

Whereas life was placed on pause, Gelb couldn’t assist however return to the script, mulling over the story and the numerous parallels it posed through the pandemic. 

“I couldn’t cease fascinated with the play,” he says. “All of the themes of isolation and togetherness and needing one another, tearing one another aside, these dichotomies have been resonating actually laborious.”

It’s these themes that he thinks are leaving audiences awestruck after the three-hour present every night time. All through the pandemic, Gelb stayed in shut contact with the director, in the end resulting in him snagging the function on Broadway.

Whereas Gelb’s character lied about his earlier expertise in engineering for the Eagles to get the job, viewers will shortly forgive him, as he acts because the viewers surrogate. All through the play, he listens in on personal conversations and gossips (a little bit of gossip is skilled, in line with Grover) to fill viewers in on what’s happening exterior of the studio. 

Gelb’s castmates have the problem of taking part in devices and singing dwell every night time — the present options authentic music by Arcade Fireplace’s Will Butler — however he’s tasked with an equal impediment: appearing together with his again to the viewers for a very good chunk of the present, as he sits on the soundboard dealing with the band. He’s taken it in stride.

“I’ve talked to lots of people who have been like, ‘Oh, it’s so attention-grabbing how I can inform the way you’re feeling simply taking a look at your again, and I’m actually completely happy to listen to that,” Gelb says. “I’m responding the identical means that I’d should you have been taking a look at my face… I do strive to consider punctuating moments with readability of motion.”

Though Gelb’s character acts because the voice of cause in a number of moments all through the play, significantly because the band struggles with professionalism whereas managing interpersonal relationships, he additionally has these “punctuating moments” of comedy and turmoil.

“Grover’s freaking out inside for a wide range of causes,” he says, together with mendacity about his earlier expertise. “The dichotomy of that confidence and that terror, it’s an attention-grabbing stability.”

Gelb might not be a educated sound engineer, however his ardour for music shines via Grover.

“In some methods, the truth that it’s an inventive medium that [I don’t] have a lot talent in made it simpler to be like, ‘Oh, let me simply escape into this factor that I like,’” he says, including that his two former roommates have been musicians and influenced his avid listening.

“Stereophonic” is hitting Broadway at a time when viewers are extra obsessive about musicians — previous, current and fictional — than ever. The world has its eyes on Taylor Swift. Fleetwood Mac’s dwell efficiency of “Silver Springs,” the place Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham seemingly hashed out their breakup on stage, has gone viral a number of occasions over. The tv present “Daisy Jones & the Six,” one other fictionalized story of a band grappling with relationships, medicine and music, captivated audiences final yr. “Stereophonic” isn’t any completely different, and Gelb has some concepts as to why individuals resonate with this story a lot. 

“There’s one thing pure a few time that’s not your individual,” he says, including that individuals love a little bit of nostalgia.

Eli Gelb

Eli Gelb

Photographer: Stephanie Diani Grooming: Scott McMahan

He does too, and has embraced the ’70s each onstage and offstage – rising a mustache and mutton chops; listening to The Seaside Boys, Todd Rundgren and Black Sabbath, and sporting types of the period for the final yr.

“I didn’t need to look within the mirror and be like, ‘Who the f*** is that man?’ I didn’t need it to really feel like a novelty,” he says. “Once I was in costume, I needed to really feel like that’s me.” 

Given the time to discover and mess around with components from the period, Gelb says his model of Grover has modified fairly a bit since he performed the function at off-Broadway Playwrights Horizons.

“Once I first began taking part in him, it was just a little bit extra goody two sneakers… I needed to present him as a lot credit score as attainable as an engineer. I felt like, ‘Nicely, then he can’t be a stoner,’ however he’s,” Gelb says. “That’s a part of the factor that I like in regards to the character. When’s the final time you noticed a very passionate, dedicated to their craft stoner? I really feel like that’s what I’m as an individual, [but]… I didn’t have the braveness to go there instantly.” 

Whereas Gelb’s journey with the present has been an extended one — and, in fact, was interrupted by a worldwide pandemic — he wouldn’t have it every other means and is keen to present audiences a number of the takeaways he’s had. 

“It’s been a dream the entire time, ever since I’ve learn it,” he says. “Life is difficult and it hurts a lot and it’s so lovely and it’s so lonely and it’s so effervescent and energetic… The place the play lands for me, it’s heartbreak and hope and gratitude… Possibly [holding space for two things at once], that’s the final word reward of the play, to create an area the place that’s inspired.”


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