Sondheim, Streisand and more from ‘The Gilded Age’ star Claybourne Elder

Claybourne Elder. (Photo by Matthew Priestley)

Claybourne Elder has been called by some critics “the sexiest gay ex-Mormon daddy onstage.” While it’s objectively true that he is in fact gay, that he was raised a Mormon, and that he and his husband have a young son, Philadelphians can soon judge the sexy part for themselves when Elder brings his latest cabaret show to New Hope on May 4.

A familiar face on Broadway for several years, Elder’s career has been on the rise lately with his recent roles as Andy in the Broadway revival of “Company” and John Adams on HBO’s “The Gilded Age.”

But there is much more to Elder’s resumé than his recent status as Broadway’s gay hunk du jour. Elder grew up in Utah in a Mormon family and studied in France and Russia before moving to New York. As a DIY renovator, his work has been featured in Architectural Digest; and as a self-taught chef, he teaches weekly cooking classes and is the brand spokesperson for Dash. Recently he launched the “City of Strangers” initiative to provide free tickets to Broadway shows for artists who might not have the means. They have given away over 3,000 tickets and have gained unexpected attention nationally from CBS This Morning, The Kelly Clarkson Show and This American Life. 

Claybourne Elder. (Photo by Jason Moody)

But the elephant in the room, of course, is his current high visibility status as a sex symbol. A simple Google search of Claybourne Elder produces an extensive array of revealing shots of a scantily clad Elder from his various appearances on stage and screen.

When asked how he feels about being a sex symbol, Elder laughs self-deprecatingly. 

“I’m really kind of shy in that regard,” he said. “It’s not something I sought out. But if it’s something people latch onto, you just sort of have to go with it.”

That would include doing the occasional spicy photo shoot for publicity purposes. All business, of course.

Elder didn’t start out seeking a career as an actor, but rather in his primary interest, music.

“As a child it was all about the music. But as time went on, I guess it was natural that I should gravitate towards musical theater.”

Even as his acting career was taking off, Elder kept coming back to his first love. He started devising his stage cabaret shows, consisting of the standards he loved mixed with autobiographical bits leavened with a dose of stand-up. Those early shows had provocative titles like “I Want to Be Bad” and “I Want to Be Evil.”

His current cabaret is more soberly titled “If the Stars Were Mine.” He characterizes this show as “something of a snapshot of where I’m at in my career and my life, giving a sort of perspective on it all.” It includes songs by Sondheim, the Great American Songbook, Streisand and others, as well as funny (and sometimes filthy) stories about his life as a Mormon, a father, and a gay sex symbol.

Elder has been touring with “Stars” for about a year, squeezing in dates between other commitments. “I usually average about one or two weekends a month with the show. But that’s not always reliable. For instance, we’re due to start shooting season 3 of Gilded Age soon, so the show will have to go on pause while that’s happening.”

However, the “Stars” tour has a number of bookings lined up for later this year, including stops in Provincetown, Chicago and Los Angeles.

While Elder does find performing “a joyful thing to do,” he admits that the schedule can put stress on family life. His husband, also being in the business, is an understanding sort, but time away from his son is often more challenging. Ironically, touring with his cabaret show is less intrusive than working close to home when he’s doing Broadway.

“When I’m doing gigs for the cabaret, I’m usually away only one or two days once or twice a month. But when I was doing “Company,” I’d get up early to have a little time at breakfast with [his son] before he left for school. Then I’d have to leave for the theater before he got home, and I wouldn’t get home til almost midnight, and he’d be long in bed.”

Overall, though, Elder is happy with both his personal and professional life. He has a stable, loving home life, and he has remained close to his Mormon family post-coming out (after some adjustment time). And his acting career’s upward trajectory is still allowing him to pursue his first love — music.

That is the love people will see onstage with “If the Stars Were Mine.”

Claybourne Elder will be performing at the Bucks County Playhouse, 70 S. Main St., New Hope on May 4. Performances at 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. For ticket info, call the box office at 215-862-2121, or visit

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