PLAYBILL.COM'S CUE & A: The "Preacher" of Broadway's Violet, Ben Davis

Ben Davis, who is featured as The Preacher in the Broadway premiere of Violet, fills out Playbill.com's questionnaire of random facts, backstage trivia and pop-culture tidbits.

Ben Davis
Ben Davis

He has previously appeared on Broadway in A Little Night Music (Mr. Lindquist), Les Misérables (Javert and Enjolras), Thoroughly Modern Millie (Trevor Graydon) and Baz Luhrmann’s La Bohème (Marcello, 2003 Tony Honor).

Other theatre work includes Spamalot (Galahad), South Pacific at the MUNY (Emile de Becque), The Sound of Music at Paper Mill Playhouse (Captain Von Trapp), The Boys From Syracuse at DC Shakespeare Theatre (Antipholus of Ephesus) and Show Boat at Goodspeed Opera House (Ravenal).

Full given name: Benjamin Jay Davis
Where you were born/where you were raised: I was born in Ames, Iowa, and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana. It doesn't get much whiter or more Midwestern than that!
Zodiac Sign: Cancer
What your parents did/do for a living: My mom is a killer real estate agent.
Siblings: I have one younger brother, Jeff. He's an über talented landscape designer.
Current Audition Song: If I'm not given anything, "I Don't Remember You" from The Happy Time.
Special skills: I can throw down mean versions of "Ice, Ice Baby" and "The Humpty Dance."
Something you're REALLY bad at: Dancing, which is ironic because I do more of it than anyone in Violet. Seriously worth the price of a ticket... I mean besides the whole Sutton Foster thing.
First Broadway show you ever saw: Touring production of Cats
If you could go back in time and catch any show, what would it be? Show Boat because of the time period, the issues it dealt with. And it would be interesting to see first-hand how it would have been received in 1927.
Current or recent show other than your own you have been recommending to friends: Even though I haven't seen it yet, Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill. I love Billie Holiday and I'd rush to see anything Audra McDonald does.
Favorite showtune(s) of all time: Wow, that's tough. "All the Things You Are" (Very Warm for May) is pretty tough to beat.
Some favorite modern musicals: Well, I did Les Miserables for about four years so I must have thought it was pretty good. I love Once, and I thought Bridges of Madison County had some of the best music I'd heard in years. Violet is pretty amazing (being totally objective, of course).
Some favorite classic musicals: South Pacific, Carousel, Man of La Mancha, Love Life (Encores!, why haven't you done this?!)
Broadway or screen stars of the past or present you would most love to perform with: Richard Kiley, John Raitt, Grace Kelly (good lord she was gorgeous)
You personal vocal idols: Robert Merrill, Richard Kiley, Johnny Hartman, Sinatra, Anthony Warlow, John Raitt
The one performance – attended - that you will never forget: Because I was double cast, I was able to attend the last performance of Baz Lurhmann's La Boheme as an audience member. I was so proud to be a part of that show and loved everyone in it so much. It was an unforgettable experience.
Music that makes you cry, any genre: Chopin's Nocturne Op. 9: No. 2 and Preludes Op. 28: No. 4, Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2
MAC or PC? MAC
Most played song on your iPod: Right now? Simon Keenlyside singing Brahms's Lerchengesang, because that's how I party. 

Last book you read: David McCullough's "The Greater Journey"
Must-see TV show(s): "Property Brothers." I'm so behind...
Last good movie you saw: I loved "Grand Budapest Hotel"
Some films you consider classics:

 A lot but let me give you two: "Now Voyager" and "Hoosiers" (don't laugh).
Performer you would drop everything to go see: The aforementioned Audra McDonald, but also Mark Rylance and Kenneth Branagh. 

Pop culture guilty pleasure: Currently, none. I pride myself on being a contrarian. I won't even get a cronut just because of the hype. That, and I hate lines.
Three favorite cities: NYC, Seattle, London
First CD/Tape/LP you owned: CD: Paul Simon's "The Rhythm of the Saints." Tape: Maybe "Grease" (I know that was my first movie). LP: As far as I can remember, it was the Bee Gees.
First stage kiss: Wow, I can't believe this but it was with Chloe Wright, my Musetta in La Boheme. I guess that is what happens when you're in Les Miserables for almost four years. Wait, I did play Marius a few times. Did he ever kiss Cosette? Surely he does.
Favorite or most memorable onstage role as a child/teenager: The Candy Man in our elementary school musical. "Who can take a sunrise...."
Moment you knew you wanted to perform for a living: Back in 1997, I was working at Prudential Securities. I happened to watch the Tonys that year and I remember being so moved by the acceptance speeches. I knew then that I wanted to love doing something that much.
Favorite pre-/post- show meal: I am such a sucker for Shake Shack after a show. It's dangerously close to the theatre.
Favorite liquid refreshment: Anything from my favorite downtown neighborhood bar, The Dead Rabbit. (Shout out to Laura and Chris there!)
Pre-show rituals or warm-ups: I love a good calf stretch.
Worst costume ever: How about we turn this into a positive? The best costume ever was the leather trench Catherine Martin designed for me in La Boheme. Amazing.
Worst job you've ever had (non-theatrical): Corn de-tasseling, I told you I was white and Midwestern.
Craziest audition story:

In 1997 I was working at Prudential Securities in Indianapolis and went to Chicago for a Les Mis open call. I was flown to New York for a callback, but when I returned I got a call at the office. They needed to hear if I could hit a high A. They told me that they would put me on the phone with the musical director in NYC and that I would have to do it over the phone.

(1. I'd never hit a high A in my life, and 2. Seriously, over the phone?) Long story short, fate intervened and I hit the note twice over speakerphone. Two weeks later, I joined the national tour of Les Mis at 22.

Were you very familiar with Violet beforehand? Have you ever seen or done a production? I had no familiarity with Violet but when I talked about it with people, I realized how incredibly well-loved it is.
What drew you to this project? The creative team and Roundabout can't be beat.
What has been the most fun or fulfilling aspect of this show/character? It's always about the people I am working with. I know that can sound cliché, but it's the truth. I am so fortunate to work with such incredibly talented people who are also really nice... that's the best part.
If you could trade roles/tracks with anyone in the show for a week, who would it be? Anyone in our onstage band, because they're all amazing musicians.
Leading man role you've been dying to play: Billy Bigelow
Leading lady role you wish you could play:
 Maria in West Side Story. Just because I wanna feel pretty.... and Latin.
Something about you that surprises people: Hmm... would you believe that I was a jock in high school?
Career you would want if not a performer: It would be a dream to be an independently wealthy aesthete.
Three things you can't live without: 1. Coffee. 2. Beautiful music. 3. My brother and my mom. (My dad is always with me even if he's gone.)
"I'll never understand why…" … people leave right after the last down beat.... really?
Words of advice for aspiring performers: It is important to be well-rounded. Diversify your interests and learn about the world outside this profession. It'll make you a lot more interesting onstage and off.