BWW Interview: Davis Gaines Reveres MAN OF LA MANCHA
Actor/singer Davis Gaines is perhaps the most revered singing star on Los Angeles stages. He is the longest running Phantom in Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's Phantom of the Opera and is about to return to Man of La Mancha. The new production from McCoy Rigby Entertainment plays the Valley Performing Arts Center at Cal State Northridge Friday, May 5, Saturday May 6 and Sunday May 7 and then moves to La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts in early June. In our chat Gaines discusses Man of La Mancha and his favorite roles from Broadway to LA.
Davis, I have seen you do the role before, have reviewed it and in my mind, it is one of your very best. It's a truly great part, but how do you keep it fresh? Is this the second time or more that you have played Alonso Quijana, Cervantes, Quijote?
Thanks Don. I appreciate your kind words. I very much love this show and especially this role. It's rare that a role like this comes along that is as challenging, but also as rewarding. It's really an actor's dream role, or at least mine. It has everything that an actor would want to play...drama, pathos and comedy. Plus, I get to sing one of the most beautiful and powerful songs ever written for a Broadway show. The McCoy/Rigby production will be my second stab at it since the 2012 Musical Theatre West production, in which I was honored to receive an Ovation Award. I'm very much enjoying re-visiting these characters again, with a fresh perspective and a beautiful new production.
If you had to pick one element of playing this part as your favorite, what would that be? The fact that you transform into two other characters, is that at the top of the list?
It's always a challenge to play two different roles, switching back and forth during the play, sometimes instantaneously, but I love the challenge. I suppose my favorite part is the character of Quixote himself. I love his optimism, his innocence, his kindness to all and his ability to see the world, not as it is, but as it should be.
Did you ever see Richard Kiley play the role(s)? If not, who did you see and how did you feel about the musical when you first saw it?
Yes! I did have the opportunity to see Mr. Kiley's performance on Broadway. I remember it being very powerful and quite moving and feeling so fortunate that I was able to see the performance of the man that originated this iconic role.
What is the message in the play and why do you feel it is so pressing at this particular time in history? Except for his fearlessness, Miguel de Cervantes/Don Quijote seem to be the exact opposite of Donald Trump.
It's really a story for the ages and the themes and messages still resonate, especially in the world in which we are living today. Besides the message of hope, the themes include redemption, acceptance and forgiveness. Quixote teaches us to treat everyone with respect and kindness. I think one of my favorite lines of Quixote is his response to Aldonza's question, "Why do you do these ridiculous things?". He answers simply, "I hope to add some measure of grace to the world".
What is your favorite song in the show? Why this choice?
Well, I would have to say "The Impossible Dream". It's such a powerful anthem about striving for hope and survival against seemingly impossible odds. I also love the simple and beautiful song, "Dulcinea", that Quixote sings to Aldonza when they first meet.
Is this your favorite role to date?
It definitely ranks right up there, and most probably at the top. As I mentioned before, It's a role that has everything an actor could want. However, I can't not mention The Phantom because it was such a huge part of my life and my career.
Is there anything left that you have not played that is dear to your heart, musical or straight play?
I've been so lucky through the years to have had the chance to play so many incredible roles with so many amazing actors and directors. In the past several years, I've had the opportunity to play roles in shows that I had never done before like Javert, Peron, Harold Hill, Fred/Petruchio, Lawrence Jameson, King Arthur (in both Camelot and Spamalot) and one of the most fun, Hannibal Lecter in SILENCE!: The Musical. Of course, a dream would be to someday return to Broadway and originate a role in a show that has yet to be written.
How does it feel to be the longest running Phantom in LA history? Talk a bit about playing the Phantom.
Playing the Phantom was another one of those roles that don't come along very often. I am truly very lucky and honored to have been involved with Phantom, first on Broadway as Raoul and then as The Phantom beginning in Los Angeles and eventually San Francisco and Broadway, for over six years. Phantom certainly changed my life and I will forever grateful to Hal Prince and Andrew Lloyd Webber for giving me that opportunity.
What's up next for you?
I continue to perform my concerts and cabaret around the country. Between the Man of La Mancha run at the Valley Performing Arts Center in May and it's subsequent run at La Mirada Theater for the Performing Arts in June, I've been invited to perform at the 50th Anniversary Gala of Center Theatre Group (the Ahmanson Theatre and the Mark Taper Forum) on May 20th. It will be exciting and a bit nostalgic to return to the Ahmanson stage where I began my "Phantom" journey, which obviously holds a very special place in my heart. In the fall, September 8 - October 8, I will once again play Don Quixote in yet another production of Man of La Mancha for the Orlando Shakespeare Theater. Orlando is my hometown, so I'm extremely excited to return in such a beautiful and moving show.
Put Davis Gaines at the top of your must-see list in Man of La Mancha at Valley Performing Arts Center this coming weekend May 5, 6 and 7, He will be at La Mirada Theatre for the Arts June 2-25.
Visit each theatre at the links below for more info and to order tickets.