DIVA TALK: Catching Up with A Little Night Music's Erin Davie

News   DIVA TALK: Catching Up with A Little Night Music's Erin Davie
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Erin Davie
Erin Davie

Erin Davie, who won a Theatre World Award for her Broadway debut in Grey Gardens, is back on Broadway in the acclaimed revival of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's A Little Night Music, which concludes its run Jan. 9, 2011, at the Walter Kerr Theatre. The singing actress, who was also seen in the Off-Broadway musical The Glorious Ones, is currently offering one of those rare, note-perfect musical theatre performances as Charlotte, Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm's long-suffering wife, who manages to secure a happy ending by the musical's finale. I recently had the chance to chat with the terrifically talented singing actress, who, during the course of the run, has had the opportunity to share the stage with Angela Lansbury and Catherine Zeta-Jones and their equally starry successors, Elaine Stritch and Bernadette Peters. My brief interview with Davie, who says she "feels ready to move on — I don't know what that entails for me yet, but it's been a great, long run, so I can't complain," follows:

Question: What have been the challenges of such a long run in A Little Night Music?
Davie: Well, obviously, keeping it fresh. But it's interesting. I find with Charlotte ... it's been a little easier, because I can always channel whatever is bothering me or has been on my mind, and it's constantly changing and shifting, and so I always find that informs my performance with her in a different way. 

Question: How would you describe Charlotte?
Davie: Because I feel like I've been living in it for so long, and it's become so in my body and natural, I don't … put labels [on her]. Early on, of course, I came up with all these intentions and where she's coming from, and I kind of let all that go and I just let it seep into my body. It's been so long since I've thought of her separately as a character. I think she's very sad and frustrated, but she tries to use her sarcastic humor to somewhat hold herself up. She's starting to lose hope, I think, and by the end of the show I think she is beaten down, and I think she kind of does lose hope, and then [Carl-Magnus] comes in and [is] completely turned around in this lovely little happy ending.

Davie in A Little Night Music
photo by Joan Marcus

Question: You say you've stopped thinking about Charlotte as being a character. How do you think that changes your performance or how has your performance changed over the run?
Davie: I find that the longer I do a show, the better my performance gets in any role. It's like if you have a tight muscle and if you just keep breathing and relaxing and all of a sudden something shifts and the muscle releases and your body kind of moves into another place. I don't know if that makes sense, but it's kind of like that. I'll be going along and I'll have found a new plateau with her, and I'll start to feel stuck and like, "Nothing has changed," and I'll feel a little stale, and all of a sudden, something will just shift and I'll find something a little different and new. And, it's been really great, and the cast change has helped a lot, too, with that. That brought a completely different energy and, almost, style to the show, and it made me have to shift.

Question: What would you say is the biggest difference between the two casts? What do you notice most or what have the new leads brought to the show?
Davie: The biggest difference is, it was really fun when Bernadette and Elaine came in because it brought new life, and the audience is so excited all over again, and so many people love Bernadette and Elaine, and you can tell the audience was so excited to come back. I think with Catherine, at first, I noticed it almost was like the audience was asking to be proven right or wrong — I don't know — about how they felt about her. I felt like the audience expected her to prove something, that they had never seen her on stage before. I think she ended up winning them over, obviously, but I think the energy coming in wasn't — everybody as a whole wasn't as all-accepting as they are of Bernadette and Elaine, who are already established stage actresses. And, of course, I think everybody loves Angela because she's been around forever [on] stage and screen. So the audience, instantly, I felt like, approved of Angela. Question: Angela Lansbury, Elaine Stritch and Bernadette Peters are such stage icons. I was wondering if you've learned anything from watching them.
Davie: Absolutely! Angela is such a professional and such a lady and just watching her, especially, backstage [dealing] with people. … She was in much demand and so many times, hordes of people would come backstage, and she was always so gracious to everybody and took her time, and it was so impressive to watch her in action. And, with Elaine — she's so fun. [Laughs.] I just appreciate her honesty so much. I know some people can find it abrasive, but it's really endearing. And, watching her onstage — it's never the same. I don't know if you know, but Elaine will switch things up every night, and that's really fun to experience and watch, because you have no idea what's coming that day. You learn that you don't have to be so tight and strict with your normal show [performance]. I've learned that you can be a little freer from Elaine.

Davie and Bradley Dean in Camelot
photo by Diane Sobolewski

Question: You also got a new husband (Bradley Dean) in the show recently.
Davie: [Laughs.] Yes, I did! Who, ironically, I did Camelot with last year at Goodspeed, so it's funny. He was Arthur and I was Guinevere in Camelot at Goodspeed last year, so here we are with our British accents again, but in a completely different context.

Question: What was it like being part of A Little Night Music during Stephen Sondheim's 80th birthday year? Did you get to interact with him at all?
Davie: He comes by once in a while, and he's really happy with the show and complimentary, and so we're thrilled that he's happy with it. Unfortunately, since we were doing a show throughout this whole year, not many of us — I guess Catherine and Angela were able to do maybe one of those concerts [at City Center] — really got to be involved in those because we were doing a show. So that was a little disappointing. We would have loved to do that, but I guess we're celebrating in a different way by doing the show.

Question: What are your plans for the holidays this year?
Davie: We're actually working! We have a show Christmas Eve and Christmas, so I'll be here in New York, doing the show and finishing it up. I'm just gonna try to really enjoy it and be as present as I can. It's hard doing a show this long. You start to — I don't want to say take it for granted, but I know that a month after we're closed, I'll be missing it terribly, as much as I'm ready to move on, so I'm just going to try to really enjoy this fantastic show as long as I can do it.

Question: When you look back at working on Grey Gardens, what stands out to you about that experience? What are some of the memories you took with you?
Davie: Grey Gardens was such a blessing to me. I know I've said this before, I think, but I was seriously questioning whether I should move on to another career right before I got that show, because I felt really stuck, like I wasn't going to make it. I was really lucky that the producer of Grey Gardens, Kelly Gonda, gave me the chance to step into that role as a virtual unknown, and I'm so grateful to the whole team for giving me that opportunity, because it was one of the most beautiful shows I've ever experienced, and I'm just really grateful for that experience. Because I wouldn't be here today, I wouldn't be talking to you today if it weren't for Grey Gardens. … And, getting to watch Christine [Ebersole] doing that show – I think there's a little 12-year-old theatre geek in all of us, but that I get to work with all these people, inside I'm squealing a little bit, just pinching myself. But on the outside, of course – [when] Bernadette came into our show, I had all her CDs. And she came in, but you just kind of have to put that little 12-year-old aside and be professional and just be grateful that you get to work with them.

Erin Davie in Grey Gardens
photo by Joan Marcus

Question: Are there any roles that you would particularly like to do?
Davie: There are, of course, but I hate to put that out there. I always keep them to myself. I always say, "Expect the unexpected." I would love to do something completely different from Charlotte next, of course, because she is really heavy to carry around, and I've been doing that for a year, and I find that when I do a role, it seeps into me a little bit, to be honest with you, and she's heavy for me. I would love to do something really different, maybe lighter, and I would love to really be able to sing some beautiful music, because I'm a soprano, and it's amazing to me that I got this job [laughs] because "Every Day a Little Death" does not sit in the real, I would say, ideal place for the meat of my voice. I can't wait to really sing some soprano music again, and I would love to do some classical plays, too. There's a lot I would love to do. Question: Do you have any interest in doing a solo concert or a solo recording?
Davie: God, of course! Those things cost money — I think that's why I haven't looked into them. They can be very expensive, that's the main thing, and I've been working like a dog. ... I would love to work with my boyfriend [Nehal Joshi] again. We met doing Carousel six years ago. He's an actor as well. He's doing Oklahoma! in DC right now. He's playing Ali Hakim. I would love to work with him again because, you know, it's been six years.

Question: Do you find it's helpful dating someone who's also in the business, that they understand the ups and downs?
Davie: Absolutely, yeah. I mean, I know some people prefer, some people don't. He's actually my audition coach, to be honest with you. [Laughs.] He's a fantastic coach, and yeah, we help each other. It's great.

Question: Since its holiday time, do you have a favorite Christmas memory or Christmas song?
Davie: I came downstairs early one morning, and I started playing with a toy and I busted it, and I never told anybody. I just ran back upstairs, and I thought I was in big trouble with Santa! [Laughs.]

Question: Any other plans post-Night Music or are you waiting to see what comes next?
Davie: You know, I don't [have plans]. What is that saying, "The best way to make the universe laugh is to make plans?" Something like that. You know, it's really hard in this business, in this industry as an actor, because you never know what's coming next, and you just have to trust that it's what the universe has planned. I really look forward to doing something new, and I have no idea what that is yet.

[For more information, visit nightmusiconbroadway.com.]

Well, that's all for now. Wishing you happy holidays, a happy New Year and, of course, happy diva-watching! E-mail questions or comments to agans@playbill.com.

View highlights from A Little Night Music:

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