When Patrick Page first met his wife, Paige Davis, he was starring as Lumiere in the first national tour of Beauty and the Beast and she was playing the flirty feather duster, Babette. Since then, Page’s life has taken a dark turn. Instead of bubbly characters like the vivacious candelabra, Page has become the theatre’s go-to villain. Armed with his booming bass-baritone Page has played the title role in Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark’s Green Goblin, The Lion King’s Scar, The Hunchback of Notre Dame’s Frollo, Caesar’s Cassius, Othello’s Iago and, most recently, Hades, a version of the god of the underworld in the New York Theatre Workshop production of Anaïs Mitchell’s new musical Hadestown.
This month, Page will take an intermission from evil-doing to star as Prospero in the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s production of The Tempest in Washington, D.C. Davis, who reprised her role as Roxie Hart in Chicago on Broadway this past spring, dedicates her summer to Operation Backback, a school supply drive. Page explains that there’s more beneath the former Trading Spaces’ host’s perky exterior, and Davis says the charm that first attracted her to her husband 21 years ago is also what makes him one of the best bad guys in the business.
Paige, do you ever think about when you met in Beauty and the Beast and find it odd that you fell in love with a candle?
Paige Davis: I definitely looked sexier as a feather duster than he did as a candelabra, but he was very charming. What is most funny about it to me is that Patrick has quite the reputation for being the go-to villain in New York City, but when I met him he was playing Lumiere, who is the figurative and literal light of the play. I always wonder why after he met me all his roles became villains…
It’s true! What is it about Patrick that makes him such a great villain?
PD: I think something that bad guys have is an incredibly alluring charm. Some of the most notorious villains in history have been incredibly charming. Patrick is extremely charming, and I certainly fell for that aspect of him.
What roles have you seen each other play that embody who the person actually is?
Patrick Page: To me [the role] that is most her and also, for me, her best work was in Sweet Charity. She played the title role in the national tour of the revival and it was just so full. I saw it many, many times and it grew tremendously every time I saw it.
PD: After he gave me notes.
PP: [laughs]. It really seemed like a major classical role when she was doing it. [Charity] was a fully three-dimensional human being, and she connected [the role] to a lot of stuff in her own life. I’ve seen her play Roxie in Chicago a lot too, which I also think is very special. I’ve had the chance to watch her in that role over a period of about 15 years, so that’s [been] an amazing process. Every time she does it—most recently was a few months ago—she makes more progress and deepens it even more. I think both of those women have a lot of her in them. She also did a play called Dancing Lessons by Mark St. Germain that I really loved. That also had a lot of her in it. It had parts of her that I get to see, but most people don’t get to see very much. When everybody sees somebody as positive and…
PD: Don’t say perky.
PP: Well, I mean as you are perceived to be. [They don’t know that type of person] can also really get down on themselves and get really sad and bitter and angry. Those were all things that came out in Dancing Lessons, so I really loved that show.
PD: My favorite role of his will always be Lumiere— and not just because it’s when we met, although I think that’s part of it, but because Patrick has gotten this reputation of being such a great bad guy, but I’m not sure that he pops into people’s minds when it comes to playing these fun, full of life and light characters. He was sublime as Lumiere. No one has ever played it better, in my opinion. Also, one of his greatest performances I’ve ever seen was when he played Cyrano at the Old Globe Theatre [in San Diego]. When that was over I said to him, “You should just quit now because you will never ever, ever top that performance.” He was like, “Thanks for that hon.”
What I love about Patrick’s work is that he never settles for less. Whether he’s playing Cyrano or Iago, or the Grinch, or Scar or Lumiere he treats all the material the same. When he played Norman Osborne and the Green Goblin in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, he had journal after journal about Norman Osborne. He developed this totally layered, whole human being as he would with any character that he was going to play. He never judges the work. He just judges his work.
Was Spider-Man a challenging time in your marriage?
PP: It was actually a really wonderful time in our marriage. Paige very frequently becomes the “mama” of the company that I’m in. They used to call her Mrs. Grinch at the Grinch. She just has a lot of love to give, so if she is in town and available she’ll throw herself into the ensemble of whatever show I’m in, and I think the [Spider-Man] cast—especially the younger performers in the show—really needed a lot of support. I had some context for what was going on around us. I had worked on new musicals and plays before, and I knew the process. The process of Spider-Man was unique. I’m not trying to downplay the fact that it was a challenging process, but I wasn’t thrown every time something changed, so I think Paige and I were able to lend an equilibrium and perspective inside the building, and it feels good to feel like you’re making a positive contribution to something.
PD: The time when his job affected me the most was when he was preparing to play Iago in Othello at the Shakespeare Theatre in D.C. He had quite rightly assessed that Iago was a psychopath, so he’d been doing massive amounts of research on individual psychopaths, and I remember that it happened to be around the time when the killer, BTK, had been discovered. Everything on TV was about psychopaths. There were books piled high in our apartment, and all he was talking about was psychopaths. I started to get afraid to leave the apartment!
SEE PHOTOS FROM PATRICK‘S BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION DURING SPIDER-MAN:
That would freak me out too! What is one role you’d love to see each other play?
PD: He wants to play Sweeney so bad.
That’s a great idea! Patrick, you’d be so good at that!
PP: Thank you. I have a few for her. They all have to do with me wanting to play opposite her. I want [us] to do Much Ado About Nothing. She’s not really comfortable with her Shakespeare skills yet, but she’s growing tremendously in that direction. The other one is Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Nobody would think of her for that, but there’s this side of her that very few people know, which is sarcastic and can be bitter. I think it could be really fun. The other one is the play Shadowlands. It was not well-reviewed when it was on Broadway, but it’s a beautiful play about C.S. Lewis and his wife, and I’d like very much to do that.
PD: I really want to do Chicago with him.
PP: Oh yeah we’ve been talking about doing that for a long time, but the dates haven’t worked out.
He’d be the Billy Flynn to your Roxie?
PD: Yeah! And I’d really love to do Victor/Victoria as well. That would be a great one for us to do together. I would really love for people to be able to see Patrick show off his comedic skills. I think about a play like Twelfth Night, where everyone automatically thinks of him as Malvolio. He is a brilliant Malvolio, but I’d love to see him be [Sir Andrew] Aquecheek.
More of a clownish character?
PD: Yes. He would bring just as much depth and reality to that as anything else he would play. I think he could be a truly heartbreaking clown in the most wonderful way. I’d love for people to see his light again.
Do you have any tips or advice for having a long lasting relationship in the entertainment business?
PP: You have to work on it. If you think you’re just going to fall in love and stay in love and that it’s going to be easy or fun—if you think that’s the whole ball game—you’re not going to make it.
PD: I would say the number one tip we have—whether you’re in the entertainment industry or not—is just to not give up. Don’t give up. Don’t leave.
PP: Unless you didn’t ever really want to be there in the first place. If you really made a commitment, then you can find your way back through a hard time.
What’s something that you do when you’re not quite on the same page?
PD: We eventually have to talk it through, and we go to a marriage therapist. That’s very helpful. But if we can’t talk for some reason, we can reach over in bed and touch each other’s feet. If we go foot to foot then that means everything is okay. Maybe it’s not okay right then, but it means that it will be okay.