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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 3, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 27
GREASE - An interview with Sarah Rose Davis
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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GREASE - An interview with Sarah Rose Davis

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

GREASE
THE 5TH AVENUE THEATRE
July 9-August 2


Without a doubt GREASE is perhaps the best known musical in the United States. Even if you are too young to have been born when the successful musical was turned into a blockbuster film, Grease's legacy continues to captivate and entertain. The 5th Avenue's new production of the classic musical explodes on stage bringing entertainment during these warm 'Summer Nights.' The Seattle Gay News caught up with Sarah Rose Davis (playing Frenchy) in the new production. With several 5th Avenue productions to her credit (A Chorus Line, Jasper in Deadland), Ms. Davis is ready to get Greased!

Eric Andrews-Katz: Who were your earliest influences in becoming a performer?

Sarah Rose Davis: Definitely Bette Midler. I used to watch Gypsy (the Bette version) on VHS growing up. I watched The Sound of Music also. My dad would tape all the musicals that were on TV. Also, I'd have to say Barbra Streisand.

Andrews-Katz: What was the theatrical production that gave you the 'theatre bug'?

Davis: Actually, I thought I had a different path. I wanted to be a recording artist and was in several choirs. I was in choirs that did their own productions, and it seemed that every group I was in was geared towards musical theater. I started to like theater from doing that.

Andrews-Katz: What challenges did you face working on a new musical like Jasper in Deadland?

Davis: You need to be willing to discover the character and to make crazy things up as you go along. You have to be willing to let things go when they get cut, because that's how musicals work. You can't hold on too tightly because it might get cut. You get over it knowing that it was best for the show and to understand that if something gets cuts, it's for the better to tell the story.

Andrews-Katz: You have credits of both classical and contemporary musicals to your credits. Which do you prefer, the classical or the contemporary and why?

Davis: I definitely prefer the contemporary. It's more my sound and my niche and more my look. But I also enjoy doing the classics. It wasn't until the last few years that I started to appreciate the classics, when I started taking more voice lessons. My voice is defining itself more towards the classics now that I have the techniques. My go to is definitely contemporary. I knew I was going to enjoy Grease, even though I wasn't familiar with the stage play. The play is right up my ally. It's fun, like Hairspray.

Andrews-Katz: Do you think the musical theatre is leaning towards more cutting edge musicals, RENT/Spring Awakening, or the nostalgia types like A Christmas Story or An American in Paris?

Davis: The theatre is doing both. In order for the theatre to survive, new and cutting things need to happen. The more traditional shows need to happen because that's where the money is. That's what people want to see who don't know anything about musical theatre. Bringing shows to different cities is what people have and what they become familiar with. But new shows need to happen as well.

Andrews-Katz: What is it about Grease that appeals to the mass audiences?

Davis: You mean besides the fact that it was a movie and reached a lot of people? It's about people that others (audiences) can relate to. The characters are representations of people we have gone to high school with, and people we were in high school. High school memories can be traumatic or wonderful and they bring in emotions. Plus the musical has catch, '50s nostalgic music.

Andrews-Katz: How do you relate to your character Frenchy?

Davis: I love Frenchy! I like to wear makeup a lot, which goes with the theatre. Having worked on the character I think about the fun clothes that I'm going to get to wear, which is all about Frenchy! It's not that she's shallow; it's just that clothes are something that makes her thrive. As Sarah, I sort of express myself through clothes and imagine what I'm wearing for the fittings. She's like a lot of high-schoolers in that she's lost, and doesn't know what to do in life. She keeps changing her hair to find the right look. She wants to go to beauty school, but then drops out. It's hard to find your path in life especially in high school. As for me, I didn't go through that in high school. I knew what I wanted to do once I found theater at an early age.

Andrews-Katz: How did you forget the movie persona and make the character your own?

Davis: I have to say that I haven't seen the movie in a long time. I watched it a ton as a kid, but I haven't seen it since I got cast last summer. There will be homage to the voice of Frenchy (Didi Cohn in the film), because I think it's really iconic for that role. I think a big part of it is not studying the movie. I try to explore in rehearsals and working with other people that you are playing with helps to inform and react to the other people around you.

Andrews-Katz: What happens to Frenchy after high school ends?

Davis: In our world, the last thing we hear about is that Frenchy got a job selling make-up at Woolworths. It's probably not the only job she ever has. She goes on to find something else later, but stays in the worlds of beauty and fashion.

Andrews-Katz: If you could play any role regardless of any limitation, what would it be and why?

Davis: That's a hard question. I wish I'd practiced that one. I'm sure it is some awesome man role that I can't think of right now. I'm sitting here blank. I could say a dream role I would love to play is Louise in Gypsy. It's one of my favorite musicals of all time. I grew up with it, watching it over and over. I thought the Bette Midler movie was great as a kid. I like the sisterly relationship between Louise and June. Another role I'd love is when they make a bio-pic of Barbra Streisand's life.

Grease opened on Broadway February 14, 1972 to a series of mixed reviews. Nominated for seven Tony Awards, it won none but did bring a Theatre World (1972) Award to Adrienne Barbeau who originally played Betty Rizzo. The musical helped launch the careers of Barry Bostwick (Danny), Jeff Conaway (Danny understudy) as well as eventually helping out the career of Richard Gere (Danny) in the Original London Cast. The musical was about to end its run on the Great White Way when the 1978 film erupted starring John Travolta as Danny, Olivia Newton-John as Sandy, Stockard Channing as Rizzo and Jeff Conaway as Kenickie. Due to the huge success of the film, the play went on to become the Longest Running Broadway Show in America (running 3388 performances) until A Chorus Line beat the record a few years later. A 1994 revival on Broadway starred Rosie O'Donnell (Rizzo), Sam Harris (Doody), Billy Porter (Teen Angel), Hunter Foster (Roger), and Megan Mullally (Marty). Another revival was launched in 2007.

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GREASE - An interview with Sarah Rose Davis
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An interview with Amy Wheeler

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What's hot for July stage openings
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WICKED - An interview with Michael DeVries
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Verdi's Don Carlos in German
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Can excellent soloists save the show?
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Georgia Ragsdale's mostly-comic memoir, Follow You Everywhere, was the hit of the weekend
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The Return of Chaos at Teatro ZinZanni
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LETTER TO THE EDITOR
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Mike still has plenty of magic
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Bawdy Overnight a promiscuously adventurous affair
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Energetic Dope overflowing in youthful vitality
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Beautiful, movingly intimate Marnie an animated masterpiece
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