Erin Davie, who won a Theatre World Award for her Broadway debut in Grey Gardens, is back on the New York stage this season in the Off-Broadway musical The Glorious Ones. The musical at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater is the latest offering from the Tony-winning team of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, best known for the powerful, turn-of-the-century-set musical Ragtime. Their latest work, which boasts direction and choreography by Graciela Daniele, traces the lives of commedia dell'arte troupers in Renaissance Italy and casts Davie in two roles: the clown Pedrolino in the first half of the show and Isabella Andreini, an actress and aspiring playwright, in the second. About the actress, lyricist-librettist Ahrens said earlier this week, "Erin has the amazing capacity to be both hysterically funny and highly dramatic. She gets to show off both sides in The Glorious Ones. At the beginning of the show, she plays Pedrolino, a raggedy young clown. Erin practically steals the entire commedia play with her physical humor. Later in the show, she becomes Isabella, which is a lyrical, dramatic and romantic role, featuring her gorgeous soprano. All in all, it's a tour de force for her. The girl can do anything!" I recently had the pleasure of chatting with the soft-spoken actress, who boasts one of the more beautiful sopranos. Davie spoke about her latest role as well as her year on Broadway in the Doug Wright-Michael Korie-Scott Frankel musical Grey Gardens.
|photo by Joan Marcus|
Question: How did these roles come about for you?
Erin Davie: Actually, Jenny Powers played this role before in Pittsburgh. I was doing Grey Gardens with Matt Cavenaugh, who she's dating. She was at our Tony party, and she said to him, "Erin should be seen for this role," because [Jenny was] going to be doing Grease. So, I really owe it to Jenny Powers. Then I called my agents and I said, "Somebody told me I should be seen for this." Then I came in, and that's how it happened. Question: You auditioned for the creative team?
Davie: Yeah, I did.
Question: What was that audition like?
Davie: I got a callback. [Laughs.] They just gave me stuff from the show. It's funny — they gave everybody this paragraph of improv, but I don't think they asked any of the girls to do it. All of the girls who were called back were sweating and terrified, but they didn’t ask us to do it. All we did was stuff from the show. This whole creative team is really, really warm and encouraging, so it was a breeze.
Question: Had you been familiar at all with the history of commedia dell'arte before this?
Davie: Not really, no. Question: Did you do any research, or did you just concentrate on the text?
Davie: Once I got it, I went on YouTube and tried to find as much visual [research material] as I could because that helps me a lot. I'm good at — I don't want to say "mimicking," but I like to watch and then do. . . . There's a really, really old movie, and it's in black and white, and there are sections on YouTube that had the clown on there. . . . I play a clown in the show half the time, which nobody seems to mention. [Laughs.] I'm very proud of it. I think I enjoy it more than the other ones. Well, in a way, it's really physical and fun, and completely different from anything I've done.
|photo by Joan Marcus|
Question: Tell me about working with [director] Graciela Daniele.
Davie: She's great. She's full of fire and ideas. I heard [co-star] Jeremy [Webb] say in an interview recently that if you have any idea, she will say, "Okay, do it! Let me see it," and she'll almost never say no. It's a really wonderful collaborative process in that way. Question: What's it like performing in the Mitzi Newhouse? It's such an intimate space.
Davie: I love the intimacy. It's really great. I love that it's all so encircling. It makes it even more intimate in that way. I don't think I've ever worked in a space like this, actually. It is really intimate, and we use all of the space. We come through the back, we come around, we go up, we go down. It's wonderful. Smaller spaces are always, I think, better for actors to work in.
Question: Have any of the audience members become a little too involved? I remember with Dessa Rose, one of the actors mentioned how audience members would sometime comment out loud.
Davie: Comment? Oh, yeah. There are parts in the show where Natalie [Venetia Belcon] is being replaced by the younger woman. It's when Flaminio, played by Marc Kudisch, says, "I think it's time for you to play an older role." She says, "But we need a young leading lady," and he says, "That's a role for a younger woman, that's a role for Isabella." And, almost everyday the audience goes, "Ooohhh, no he didn't…" You know, this collective groan, especially from the women.
Question: Do you have a favorite moment in the show for either of the characters you play?
Davie: For the characters I play, I personally enjoy the first [scene] when I'm the clown and I'm up on the bridge. That's my favorite. I just get to play and be completely physical and ridiculous up there.
Question: And how about for Isabella?
Davie: Probably when I first come out and I get to sing with Jeremy. That's the best moment. It's a beautiful song ["Opposite You"] I get to sing.
|photo by Joan Marcus|
Question: That's a pretty song. Is there talk of a cast recording at this point?
Davie: I think there's talk, but I don't think there's anything definite yet. Question: I wonder if you've found any differences in the audiences since the Broadway strike began. Do you find them any happier to be there?
Davie: Early on we got a lot of the subscribers. They generally tend to be older, and that's just a fact. They enjoy it, but they're just not quite as energetic or loud. But since the strike has happened, we have been pretty much sold out. There have been some younger people coming in, and I think that the show really needs younger people. We had teenagers come in recently, and they just eat it up. The humor is really silly. It's a serious show as well, but the humor is so fun and ridiculous. It really appeals to a younger crowd, I think. So I feel like the younger the people we get in here, the better, because they do bring a little bit more energy and life. They actually have been a little bit more youthful, and I think pleasantly surprised is the general feeling I get from the audience.
Question: Going back a bit, where were you born and raised?
Davie: Nashville, Tennessee.
Question: When did you start performing?
Davie: I guess in high school, like everybody else.… I was so incredibly shy and introverted, and my mom dragged me to the play auditions. She knew I wanted to do it, but I'm like, "Oh no, I couldn't possibly…," and she was like, "No, you go back in there, and I'll just wait." And so I got into it, and I kind of started there.
Question: Were there any actors or performers that you particularly admired at that point?
Davie: Early on I started with singing. I actually started singing when "The Little Mermaid" came out. It was all about "The Little Mermaid," and then my mom dragged me to go see Cats, and then I was all about Betty Buckley. So early on, "The Little Mermaid" and Betty Buckley were it.
Question: Was it Cats in New York or Cats on the road?
Davie: It was on the road. It was the tour.
Question: When did performing change for you from being a hobby to something you knew would be your career?
Davie: I don't know. I just kept doing it. It just progressively happened. You kind of follow your path until you feel like it's wrong for you or it's not working. I wasn't sure that it would ever really work out; I just knew that it's where I wanted to go. I just kept following this path, these bread crumbs. It just kept leading me to the next step, so I couldn't be more thrilled that it actually ended up happening.
Question: When did you come to New York? What brought you here?
Davie: I went to the Boston Conservatory, and they do a showcase at the end of the senior year. They bring it to New York, and I got an agent through that, and I moved here.
Question: What was your first professional job here?
Davie: The first professional job I had was a tour of The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber.
|photo by Joan Marcus|
Question: How did Grey Gardens come about?
Davie: I just got a call from my agent. I got an audition. That was a crazy story. I went in for the understudy, and I got a callback, but there was a huge mix-up and I wasn't told, and I missed it. And they said, "We really need to cast this today — sorry." And I thought I had missed my chance, and it was really heartbreaking for me because I really felt like it was one of those roles where you read it and you go, "Oh, my God, this is me. This is the most perfect thing." It's when you get so excited, and then something like that happens, and it's heartbreaking. And then, because of some other reason, they had to push the callbacks or the auditions up, and they said, "We're going to let you come back in in two weeks because we've had to move it for other reasons." They didn't move it because of me, believe me. [Laughs.] I went in, and I was there for two hours at the end of the day. It was with two other girls, going in and out and in and out. I was like, "Boy, this is a lot for an understudy role!" I left, and then I got a call an hour later that I had actually gotten it.
Question: Did you think at first it was for the understudy?
Davie: Yeah, that's what they told me. Nobody ever told me that I was actually reading for the role.
Question: So, when did you find out that you weren't the understudy?
Davie: My agent called me an hour after I left, and she said, "You didn't get the understudy, you got the part!"
Question: What was your reaction?
Davie: Oh, my God. You know, I kind of had a feeling when I left. I thought, "Boy, this is a lot for them to be doing for an understudy. I've been here three hours. I'm in and out, they're looking at everything." I felt like I did a really good job, and then you try to leave and forget about it. I was in Kmart, and I was downstairs, and [my agent] was breaking up [on the cell phone], and I just thought, "Things are meant to be." The first person I thanked was Edie's ghost. I just felt like things happened for a reason, and I was blessed.
Question: What was that experience like in Grey Gardens?
Davie: Right now I'm like, "Did that really just happen?" I spent a whole year of my life just on that show. There was no room for anything else in my life when I was doing that show. It was so all-encompassing, but it was really wonderful. It was so beautiful. It was all I could have dreamed of and more.
Question: I thought you did such a good job of foreshadowing the change in the character. I really saw aspects of Christine Ebersole's second-act performance in you in the first. Did you try and study her a bit?
Davie: I did, as much as I could. I could watch the movie as much as I want, but Christine's "Little Edie" is going to be somewhat different than the movie. That's what people are seeing in the audience. Not everybody saw the movie, so I had to watch what she did physically and vocally and everything else. It was actually a lot of fun. Throughout the whole run, I was always picking up new little things. I really felt like it grew a lot by the end. Question: That show had such a devoted core audience. What do you think it was that appealed to so many people?
Davie: It was just so truthful and heartbreaking and true, and it's something that isn't often portrayed in musical theatre. Musical theatre a lot of time these days is light and fluffy or melodramatic. It was so beautiful. I think everybody can relate to the story of parent and child and growing older.
Question: Do you think The Glorious Ones has a message?
Davie: Oh gosh, yes. Actually, it's so funny, somebody said to me last night… They were being very philosophical, and they said, "How do I make a mark?" And, I was like, "Well, that's the question [in our show]." Our show is very light and funny but also, at the end of the day, it's very philosophical, and it's about, "What is the point? Why are we here, and what are we here to do? How do we make our mark?"
Question: Is that something that concerns you?
Davie: Yes, of course. I went through a big period when I was 16 or so when all of a sudden I realized that we're all going to die, and life is really depressing. Life is hard and then you die, is that how it goes? And then what's left? You especially notice that when somebody you love dies, and you see the rest of the world just completely keeps going [while] your life is completely turned upside down. You say, "Well, why? What is it all for?" So I went through that, and then I guess I came out the other end feeling like, "As long as you love and try to make other people's lives better… and hopefully if you just try to find the truth in your path and everybody's path is different…" Nobody knows the answer, but just live as truthfully and lovingly as you can.
Question: Do you have any other projects in the works at this point?
Davie: Nothing that I can mention. [Laughs.] Actually, I am doing a reading of Silas: The Musical that Michael Korie did the lyrics to and Bruce Coughlin [wrote the music].
Question: And there's something else that you can't talk about?
Davie: I haven't had any contracts yet, but it's exciting!
[The Glorious Ones plays the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater through Jan. 6, 2008. For tickets call (212) 239-6200 or visit www.telecharge.com]
The late, acclaimed singer Nancy LaMott, who breathed life into standards from the American Songbook while introducing a batch of new classics, will be heard on a new CD and DVD that will arrive in stores Feb. 12, 2008. Midder Music will release a two-CD collection entitled "Ask Me Again," which features previously unreleased tracks with "unplugged, no frills arrangements." Most of the songs feature LaMott's longtime accompanist/arranger, Christopher Marlowe, and were recorded live in one take. Titles include "You and I," "Moondance," "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "I Didn't Know What Time It Was."
The DVD, entitled "I'll Be Here with You," chronicles LaMott's journey from San Francisco club singer to New York cabaret star and includes footage from appearances at the Algonquin's Oak Room and on "Live! With Regis & Kathie Lee." Song titles include "Listen to My Heart," "The Waters of March," "I'm Glad There Is You"/"The Best Is Yet to Come" and "Moon River." The latter was performed on the "Charles Grodin Show" just nine days before LaMott's untimely death. The DVD also includes a photo montage and a "Broadway Beat" interview conducted with LaMott in 1994.
LaMott was one of this diva lover's very favorite vocalists, so I'm thrilled with the news of the CD and even more thrilled that video footage of the late singer will be available commercially for the first time. For those who have never heard LaMott, her lush voice could be soft and sweet one minute and big and belty the next. She also possessed a remarkable ability to find the emotional center of any song, bringing a lyric to life as honestly as possible.
The new recordings were compiled and produced by composer David Friedman, who penned many of LaMott's signature tunes. The CDs and DVD will be distributed by LML Music via the Allegro Corporation.
On the day of the release of the new LaMott recordings, an in-store event will be held at the Barnes & Noble at the Lincoln Triangle in Manhattan. More information will be announced at a later date.
The complete track listings for "Ask Me Again" and "I'll Be Here with You" follow.
"Ask Me Again" CDs
"You and I"
"Ask Me Again"
"The Shadow of Your Smile"
"Cheek to Cheek"
"On My Way to You"
"Easy to Love"
"Call Me Irresponsible"
"Right as the Rain"
"You're Getting to Be a Habit with Me"
"September in the Rain"
"I Only Have Eyes for You"
"The Wind Beneath My Wings"
"You'll Never Know"
"The Music that Makes Me Dance"
"No One is Alone"/"Not While I'm Around"
"I Didn't Know What Time it Was"
"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"
"I'll Be Here with You" DVD
"But the World Goes 'Round"
"Another Mr. Right"
"Some Other Time"
"Loud is Good"
"Time to Remember"
"You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby"
"I Love a Piano"
"It Ain't Necessarily So"
"The Darktown Strutters' Ball"/"Alexander's Ragtime Band"
"Alexander's Ragtime Band"/"The Darktown Strutters' Ball"
"Where Do You Start?"
"We Can Be Kind"
"Time After Time"
"Just in Time for Christmas"
"I'll Be Home for Christmas"
"The Best is Yet to Come"
"All the Things You Are"/"I'm Glad There is You"
"I'll Be Here with You"
"Help is On the Way"
"Out of This World"/"So In Love"
"Waters of March"
"Listen to My Heart"
For more information visit www.nancylamott.com and www.myspace.com/nancylamott.
Yes, it's true Patti fans! La LuPone is headed back to Broadway! After a limited engagement this past summer at City Center — the inaugural production of the Encores! Summer Stars series — the acclaimed mounting of Gypsy starring Tony and Olivier Award winner LuPone will arrive on Broadway in 2008. According to a casting notice, the classic musical will open at a Broadway theatre-to-be-announced March 27, 2008. Gypsy co-creator Arthur Laurents, who helmed the City Center run, will direct on Broadway as well. The casting notice says that the entire cast of the Encores! production have been offered the chance to repeat their roles on Broadway, but only LuPone has currently been cast. Richard Frankel Productions is producing. Stay tuned for more details!
Broadway favorite Melissa Errico will return to the famed jazz club Birdland Dec. 18 at 8:30 and 11 PM. Errico's new show is titled Blue Skies and Lullabies and will feature songs from her forthcoming CD, "Lullabies and Wildflowers," which is scheduled for a Mother's Day 2008 release on the Velour/Universal Records label. Mary Cleere Haran directs Errico's latest cabaret act, which will also include tunes by Judy Collins, Gershwin, Sammy Kahn and Errico's brother, Mike Errico. Birdland is located in Manhattan at 315 West 44th Street. There is a $30 cover charge and $10 food-drink minimum. Call (212) 581-3080 for reservations or visit wwww.birdlandjazz.com.
Two classic Broadway musicals will be presented in concert in 2008. The New York Philharmonic will offer four semi-staged performances of Lerner & Loewe's Camelot in May. Directed by Lonny Price (A Class Act, 110 in the Shade), the musical will play Avery Fisher Hall May 7-10. Thomas Z. Shepard will produce the limited engagement; casting and additional production credits will be announced at a later date. And, Francesca Zambello, currently represented on Broadway with the new Disney musical The Little Mermaid, will direct a one-night-only concert presentation of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II’s Show Boat June 10 at Carnegie Hall. The evening will feature the Orchestra of St. Luke's with musical direction by Paul Gemignani and musical staging by Robert Longbottom. For more information visit www.nyphil.org or www.carnegiehall.org.