BWW Feature: John Davidson Flies into Baltimore Joining the Cast of FINDING NEVERLAND at the Hippodrome Theatre
So who is John Davidson? He is an actor, comedian, author, musician, TV host, singer, and entertainer. And Baltimore/Washington audiences should be in for a treat watching this consummate performer live on the boards of the historic Hippodrome Theatre as he stars in the acclaimed musical FINDING NEVERLAND from June 27 to July 2, 2017.
I spoke with Davidson as he was rehearsing with the cast in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
Davidson hails from Bridgewater, MA and grew up in White Plains, NY. At the suggestion of his mother and uncle, he attended Denison College, a small liberal arts school west of Columbus, Ohio. He really had no interest in theater but soon realized that theater could give him a trade he could use after school versus studying economics or psychiatry. While he enjoyed track and field, football, and basketball, he fell in love in theater and graduated with a BA in Theater Arts.
He then came to New York. He commented, "I stood out. I looked clean cut and wholesome while everybody else seemed to be like Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro. My first show was the musicAl FoxY starring Burt Lahr. It was not very successful."
He attributes his long and illustrious career to Bob Banner who discovered Carol Burnett and brought her to television. Burnett coincidentally is also an actor, singer, and comedian and Banner was looking really for a "male" Burnett to serve as a television host of a variety show. His first gig was serving as a replacement for the Andy Williams variety show in 1966.
His television career spanned many years where he guest hosted "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson" over 80 times, he hosted his very own daytime talk show, and helmed "The Kraft Summer Music Hall" with regulars like Flip Wilson, George Carlin, and Richard Pryor. He also has 13 Columbia record albums to his credit.
Besides a successful Las Vegas act, he has appeared in numerous films such as "Edward Scissorhands" and "The Happiest Millionaire".
Davidson's true love though is performing in the theater. His mother brought him to his first Broadway show and believe it or not it was PETER PAN starring Mary Martin. "We had first row mezzanine seats. I was knocked out by the story and the music and dancing."
Who would have thought he would much later be playing the role of "Captain Hook".
It may be a surprise to many that he has had much success in musical theater. He starred in STATE FAIR and won a Theatre Guild Award for his role as "Curly" in Broadway revival of OKLAHOMA. He has been touring ever since and even played the "Wizard" in WICKED.
After seeing Kelsey Grammar's role in the hit Broadway version of FINDING NEVERLAND, Davidson told his agent that if the show ever toured that he wanted to audition for that role. Last November, he auditioned for it while it was still on Broadway without success. Later they would call him back for another audition but he was booked all year with his concert tour and was about to appear in OLD GOLDEN POND. Well, Davidson knew what he had to do and begged off and joins the cast starting this Tuesday on June 27. Also joining the tour this week are three playing "Peter", Turner Birthisel (played "Les" in national tour of NEWSIES), Connor Jameson Casey (first Broadway show), Wyatt Cirbus (TRU TV's "John Glaser Loves Gear (Himself)", and Bergman Freeman (making his Broadway tour debut).
Davidson raved about the acclaimed Director Diane Paulus. He commented, "She has made minor adjustments from the Broadway version making it even better. She also put back in a song that was cut on Broadway." He knows about the trials and tribulations about auditioning for Paulus. He said, "I auditioned three times for the national tours of PIPPIN and then WAITRESS without success."
Playing the role of Charles Frohman (and the mischievous Captain Hook) is a thrill for him. "It's a perfect role for me. He was an American producer like the late David Merrick in the early 1900's. Frohman was a star maker... He was called the "Napoleon of Drama". Sadly he perished on the ship the "Lusitania" which was sunk off the coast of Ireland in World War I. Frohman is also the only character in the show without an English accent which I enjoy."
The tour is lasting 45 weeks and includes a three week sojourn to Japan which Davidson is really excited about since he has never been there. Davidson and his wife Rhonda (and their cat) love to tour and I was shocked to learn that they drive between venues and that is a lot of driving. Following Baltimore, they head to Dallas, TX, then to Greenville, SC, and then to Hartford,CT. I am calling him the "John Madden of Theater" named for the ex-football star and football commentator for "Monday Night Football" who refused to fly between assignments and drove himself in a big caravan.
Davidson's last visit to Baltimore was 17 years ago when he toured in STATE FAIR. He recalls singing the National Anthem at Camden Yards. He is looking forward to seeing the many changes that have occurred. He's also looking forward to steamed crabs and crab cakes.
FINDING NEVERLAND plays Baltimore's Hippodrome Theatre from June 27 to July 2, 2017. For tickets, call 800-982-2787.