‘Chaos junkie’ Darren Criss joins Lea Michele for SF Masonic show
October 22, 2018
Ask Darren Criss how it feels to return to San Francisco, his hometown, as a newly anointed Emmy Award winner for his startling and spectacular lead performance as murderer Andrew Cunanan in “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story.”
“Well,” Criss says, “it feels better than last time I was there as an Emmy loser.”
Criss received his first Emmy nomination in 2015 for writing music and lyrics for “This Time,” sung in the series finale of his breakthrough gig, “Glee.” The tune was sung by his friend Lea Michele, who will reprise the song in San Francisco when she and Criss bring their LM/DC Tour to the Masonic on Monday, Oct. 29.
If the 31-year-old Criss seems a little low-key about his Emmy win, it’s probably because he is as usual, juggling a million balls and spinning a million plates.
It has always been this way. Shortly after graduating from the University of Michigan, he and a group of friends created Starkid Productions and created and produced a series of musicals inspired by the Harry Potter books, with Criss taking the starring role.
From there, it was a quick hop to sudden stardom as gay, bow-tied high schooler Blaine Anderson in “Glee” and then to movies, TV and Broadway (“How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” and “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”). In his spare time, Criss has founded a Broadway musical festival called Elsie Fest, formed a band with his brother, Chuck, called Computer Games, released EPs of his own, gotten engaged to Mia Swier and, with Swier, opened a piano bar in L.A. called Tramp Stamp Granny’s.
“I’m a chaos junkie,” Criss says on the phone from his L.A. home. “I thrive in the chaos.” Last week, for instance, he went from shooting on Roland Emmerich’s World War II drama “Midway” in Montreal, and the minute he landed at LAX, he headed off to the valley to shoot a Christmas special that he can’t really talk about.
“The juxtaposition of being in World War II to wearing a Christmas sweater and caroling with some absurdly fabulous people illustrates what my life is,” Criss says. “I go from thing to thing to thing, with no real idea of what I just did or where I’m going. People say, ‘What are you up to?’ I don’t even know.”
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He’s also an incredibly hard worker. Take the tour with his pal Michele. They had talked for years about making their love of performing together official with a tour. “It was never a matter of if but when,” Criss says. “Over the years, aside from ‘Glee’ we had performed a lot together, and it’s really fun when our powers combine. It just came down to scheduling.”
The first leg of the tour earlier this year stuck to the East Coast, and now the duo head west for a show that allows each singer time in the solo spotlight as well as plentiful duets on “Glee” favorites and show tunes (“Falling Slowly” from “Once,” “Suddenly Seymour” from “Little Shop of Horrors”).
“The through line for both me and Lea is ‘Glee’ and musical theater, but there’s so much musical variety in our backgrounds,” Criss says. “We basically take people on a journey through music we love and ground it in our relationship with each other, our friendship forged over the years. It’s like an intimate hang in the living room. But bigger.”
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Michele and Darren Criss: The LM/DC Tour: 8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 29. $45-$99.50. The Masonic, 1111 California St., S.F. 800-745-3000. www.livenation.com