Thought best known to audiences around the country as the energetic host of The Learning Channel's "Trading Spaces," Paige Davis has a long history in the musical theatre. She starred as Babette in the first national tour of Disney's Beauty and the Beast and has also been seen in productions of A Chorus Line, Company, Pippin and Hello, Dolly!. But the actress' longest association has been with Kander and Ebb's Chicago, having appeared in both the Broadway and Las Vegas productions of the Tony-winning revival. Now, Davis has returned to the Broadway mounting at the Ambassador Theatre as merry murderess Roxie Hart, a role she will inhabit through the beginning of August before heading back to her hit television series. I recently had the chance to chat with the singer-dancer actress; that brief interview follows:
Question: How does the schedule of performing eight times a week compare to filming "Trading Spaces"?
Paige Davis: I couldn't even tell 'ya, I've only done four [performances of Chicago]. [Laughs.] Obviously, I have a long history doing theatre. It's just very, very different. It's almost impossible to compare — apples to oranges.
Q: How does it feel to be back on Broadway after a bit of a break?
PD: It feels wonderful to be on stage again — the immediate response, the immediate connection, everything.
Q: How did this engagement come about — did you approach the producers or did they come to you?
PD: We had the idea; I think they had thought of it, too. I have a long association with Chicago — I've done the show [before], and I understudied the role of Roxie, so it was kind of a perfect fit. They were interested in having me do it, [and] I was very interested in doing it . . . But at first I didn't think I was going to have enough of a hiatus [from "Trading Spaces"]. We haven't really had a hiatus. I was told that I would need six weeks, and that just didn't seem possible. I was gonna be lucky to get one. [Laughs.] But then, in the end, we did actually wind up — after a whole string of circumstances — we wound up having quite a nice hiatus, and so my agent called them back and said, "Wait, can she still do it? She's available now!" [Laughs.] And they were like, "Yeah, yeah." I was nervous maybe they'd moved on and called somebody else, but it was still available, and I was able to come in. Q: What was the rehearsal process like? How much time did you have?
PD: The rehearsal process was very random and sporadic. I was rehearsing Chicago little bits at a time sprinkled throughout [while] still doing "Trading Spaces." It was tricky.
Q: What do you think of the character of Roxie? How would you describe her?
PD: Well, she's desperate. She's desperate for love, and she'll take that love in any form that she can get it, whether it's attention from a man, attention from the press. She's desperate for validation. She just wants to know that she's okay.
Q: Do you have a favorite moment in the show?
PD: I do. I really love "[Me and My] Baby," which is sort of the height of her ambition, of her Machiavellian attitude. [Laughs.] But one of my very favorite moments is at the end of the play when she connects with Amos one last time, and Amos realizes — she tells him that there is no baby, and he asks her again, "There ain't no baby?" And I take a moment to realize that he is actually in pain, and it's the one moment that I give to him of just pure honesty and sincerity to say, "That's right." I just love that connection that P.J. [Benjamin] and I have. It's really beautiful; it's definitely a peek into her not necessarily being a monster.
Q: With the announcement of Avenue Q heading to Las Vegas, I think people are now more interested in Vegas as a possible theatre venue. What was it like performing Chicago there?
PD: [Laughs.] We all thought that Chicago was the perfect fit for Vegas, and it did do very well — it thrived there. It was interesting because every [other] show in Vegas is an hour-and-a-half, so we'd lose sometimes 25% of our audience every now and then at intermission. And we never knew if it was because they didn't like it, they couldn't stay away from the gambling or if they just assumed it was over. [Laughs.]
Q: Did you see the film "Chicago"? What did you think of it?
PD: I did, and I remember thinking, "Oh, I just don't know why they changed that. I liked it better the other way," but in the end I just didn't care because I had so much fun watching the movie . . . it was awesome.
Q: Considering the TV show you host, have you done anything with your dressing room?
PD: Well, right now, I couldn't possibly do anything or arrange anything because there are so many flowers in there. [Laughs.] I have, I think, 16 arrangements of flowers, and it's not a big dressing room. But I cleared away a lot of the clutter. I'm kind of a neatnik, so I got rid of all the other Roxies' junk that's been left over [laughs] — bobby pins and stuffed animals and cups full of tea bags that probably got moved there from the Shubert [Theatre].
Q: What have the last couple of years been like for you with the success of the TV show? Has it been more than you thought it would be?
PD: Oh, absolutely. It's radically changed my life, to be recognizable is just a whole other family member. [Laughs.]
Q: How long are you with Chicago, and what's after that for you?
PD: I'm here until August 8 and then back to "Trading Spaces."
DIVAS AT SEA
"Diva Talk" will be heading out to sea July 11, covering the various events — including a few diva-packed evenings — on the premiere voyage of "r family vacations."
Founded by Rosie and Kelli O'Donnell and Gregg Kaminsky, "r family vacations" is offering a seven-day, family-friendly cruise especially designed for the gay and lesbian community, though single and straight folk are equally welcomed. In a statement, the former talk-show host and Broadway lover explained, "It was over two years ago that we kicked around the idea of creating a cruise where all families are welcome and diversity is celebrated. We are so excited to sail out of New York City [and] begin a vacation you will never forget."
The adventure begins Sunday, July 11 at the New York piers when the Norwegian Dawn sets sail at 4 PM. Monday, July 12 will be spent at sea, and on Tuesday, July 13 the ship will dock at Port Canaveral, FL, which is located near such theme parks as Universal Studios, Disney World and Sea World. On July 14, cruisers can spend the day in Key West, Florida, before returning to the ship for its next destination, the Bahamas. On Thursday, July 15, the Norwegian Dawn will stop at the private island Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas, followed by the great shopping destination Nassau, the Bahamas, on July 16. The ship will then head back to New York City, docking Sunday, July 18 at 10 AM.
In addition to swimming pools, weight rooms and fine dining, the cruise will offer varied entertainment on board — a different event scheduled for each night of the trip. "Bollywood," described as Cirque du Soleil meets Bombay Dreams, kicks off the entertainment July 11. Featuring the Jean Ann Ryan Company, the evening will include an "incredibly athletic performance" featuring songs from the award-winning film "Moulin Rouge."
O'Donnell — in her talk-show guise — will host "Rosie's Variety Hour" on July 12. With costumes by Taboo's Bobby Pearce, the evening will boast the talents of Suzanne Buirgy, Liz McCartney, Euan Morton, Julia Murney, Billy Porter, Esera Tuaolo and Seth Rudetsky. Other singers and dancers set to perform include Tim Albrecht, Andrea Burns, Brooke Elliott, Leroi Freeman, Marya Grandy, Anika Larsen, Jose Llana, Mark Reis, Ric Ryder, Michael Lee Scott, Kathleen Seymour and Virginia Woodruff. The cast of "Schoolhouse Rock" — including Ann Cooley, Marya Grandy, Mark Reis, Ric Ryder, Michael Lee Scott and Kathleen Seymour — will also join O'Donnell for her variety evening.
The "Schoolhouse Rock" cast will go it solo Tuesday, July 13 performing everyone's favorite "Schoolhouse Rock" tunes in a live stage show. Theatregoers can expect to hear such ditties as "Unpack Your Adjectives," "Do the Circulations," "Just a Bill," "Lolly, Lolly, Lolly" and "Conjunction Junction." A comedy showcase will also be presented July 13 featuring the talents of comedians Judy Gold, Bob Smith and Poppy Champlain.
Tony Award winner Christine Ebersole and Grammy Award-winning pianist Billy Stritch will team up for an evening of cabaret Wednesday, July 14. Ebersole and Stritch recently played an acclaimed run at Feinstein's at the Regency in Manhattan. Ebersole, who won her Tony for her performance in the hit revival of 42nd Street, will sing standards and tunes from the musical theatre.
Gospel-voiced Billy Porter, whose Broadway credits include Miss Saigon, Grease! and Smokey Joe's Cafe, will offer his own solo concert Thursday, July 15. Concertgoers can expect to hear tunes from Porter's new CD as well as old favorites.
"The View" co-host Joy Behar will bring her comedy routine to the cruise ship Friday, July 16. In addition to her work as a comedian and TV host, Behar is also the author of the Hyperion tome, "Joy Shtick: or What Is the Existential Vacuum and Does It Come with Attachments?"
The final evening of entertainment, Broadway Belters, will be hosted by Chatterbox creator Seth Rudetsky. Among the artists belting tunes will be Andrea Burns, Gavin Creel, Elaine Brier, Darius De Haas, Anika Larsen, Jason Little, Jose Llana, Julia Murney and Virginia Woodruff. Karen Munkel is the evening's stage manager.
And, for those of you who wish to join in on the fun, there are still cabins available. Call (866) 732-6822 for reservations. For more information, Click Here.
Elaine Paige, the leading lady of the British musical theatre, will soon return to the small screen with a guest appearance on a new "Miss Marple" film. The award-winning actress, recently seen in the New York City Opera production of Sweeney Todd, will play Dora Bunner in the second of four "Miss Marple" TV films, which star Geraldine McEwan as Agatha Christie's spinster sleuth. The films will be broadcast on ITV1 later this year; shooting for the second film is expected to begin this month. Paige will be joined in the TV film by Zoë Wanamaker, Alexander Armstrong, Keeley Hawes and Robert Pugh as well as Claire Skinner, Cherie Lunghi, Frances Barber, Catherine Tate, Christian Coulson, Sienna Guillory, Matthew Goode and Virginia McKenna. According to production notes, this "Miss Marple" film concerns "the villagers of Chipping Cleghorn [who] are agog with curiosity over an advertisement in the local gazette which reads: ‘A murder is announced and will take place on Friday, September 25th, at Little Paddocks at 7:30 PM' A childish practical joke? Or a hoax intended to scare poor Letitia Blacklock? Unable to resist the mysterious invitation, a crowd begins to gather at Little Paddocks at the appointed time when, without warning, the lights go out, a man bursts into the room and fires three shots. When the lights are turned back on, Letitia is wounded but the mysterious gunman lies dead on the floor."
Theatre lovers will have a chance to hear tunes from Amanda Green and Tom Kitt's new musical, High Fidelity, at a July 12 concert at Birdland. Among the performers interpreting songs by Green and Kitt will be Mario Cantone, Jenn Colella, Jonathan Dokuchitz, Matt McGrath, Greg Naughton, Nancy Opel, Alice Ripley and Amy Spanger. The 8 PM evening will also include the Tom Kitt Band. Birdland is located between Eighth and Ninth Avenues at 315 West 44th Street. There is a $20 cover and a $10 food/drink minimum. Call (212) 581-3080 for reservations.
Ana Gasteyer — best known for her lengthy run on the legendary NBC series "Saturday Night Live" — will make her Ars Nova concert debut next month. Gasteyer will perform Let it Rip! An Evening of Songs July 12 and 13 at 8 PM. Directed by Jason Eagan with musical direction by Mitch Kaplan, the concerts will feature an evening of favorite songs and observations. The Ars Nova Theater is located at 511 West 54th Street, off Tenth Avenue. Tickets, priced at $20, are available by calling (212) 868-4444 or by visiting www.smarttix.com.
Don't expect any Kander and Ebb or Rodgers and Hammerstein or even Andrew Lloyd Webber. It will be Zeppelin, Joplin and Mellencamp on the menu when a host of Broadway performers rock the house at the third Rockers on Broadway concert. The July 19 evening at Arlene's Grocery will benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Among those artists scheduled to belt out some rock-and-roll tunes are host Donnie Kehr as well as Aida's Schele Williams, Micky Dolenz and Cheynne Jackson; Chicago's Greg Reuter and Deidre Goodwin; Hairspray's Kathy Brier, Clarke Thorell and John Jeffrey Martin; Wicked's Walter O'Neil and Derrek Williams; Dance of the Vampires' Doug Storm; Assassins' Brandon Wardell and Kendra Kassebaum; and Rent's Joshua Kobak and Julie Danao. Rockers on Broadway III will be held in Manhattan at Arlene's Grocery, 95 Stanton Street. Tickets, priced at $20, will be available at the door the day of the performance. For more information, visit www.donniekehr.com.
Josie de Guzman, who received a Tony nomination for her performance in the 1992 revival of Guys and Dolls, has joined the cast of the North Shore Music Theatre's upcoming production of Nine. The singer-actress will be play Luisa, wife of Guido Contini in the Maury Yeston musical, which plays the North Shore Aug. 24-Sept. 12. As previously announced, "Guiding Light" star Robert Newman will star as filmmaker Contini with Cabaret's Milena Govich as Carla. The company will also include Amanda Serkasevich as Claudia, Beth McVey as Liliane La Fleur, Melissa Hart as Guido's Mother, Inga Ballard as Saraghina, Jacqueline Hendy as Our Lady of the Spa, Charlotte Cohn as Stephanie Necrophorus and Cindy Marchionda as Lina Darling. The ensemble comprises Amy Barker, Alison Spratt, Jennifer Taylor, Melissa Rouse, Jaclyn Minerva, Becky Barta, Carol Schuberg and Joanne Javien. The North Shore Music Theatre is located in Beverly, MA at 62 Dunham Road. Call (978) 232-7200 for more information or visit the theatre on line at www.nsmt.org. Rebecca Luker, most recently on Broadway in the Tony-winning revival of Nine, will return to her native Alabama for a concert version of Carousel this September. Luker will join George Dvorsky for a concert of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic Sept. 25 at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Center Concert Hall. Backed by the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, the Christopher Confessore directed evening will also feature the Alabama Ballet. Show time is 8 PM. Tickets for Carousel are available by calling (205) 251-7727 or by visiting the Symphony box office at 3621 Sixth Avenue South. For more information, go to http://www.alabamasymphony.org.
Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley, who are currently starring in the Pasadena Playhouse's production of 110 in the Shade, will offer evenings of duets at The Cinegrill next month. The husband-and wife team will perform Opposite You at the intimate cabaret July 29 31. Show time is 8:30 PM. Mazzie and Danieley have previously performed their duets show at Joe's Pub and for Lincoln Center's American Songbook series. The Cinegrill is located within the Roosevelt Hotel at 7000 Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, CA. Call (323) 769-7269 for reservations.
And, finally, I've been hearing great things about Marta Goes' A Safe Harbor for Elizabeth Bishop, which is currently playing Vassar College's Powerhouse Theatre. Starring Amy Irving and directed by Richard Jay-Alexander, the production — part of the New York Stage and Film season — ends its limited, sold-out run July 3. Polly Bergen and David Marshall Grant are just two of the celebs who have been thrilled by the drama, and several Broadway producers have been quietly checking it out as well. Stay tuned . . .
Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching!