BWW Interview: Derrick Davis as Phantom in THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA on Tour
With THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA playing to sold-out audiences all over the world, the current North American tour is no exception. Derrick Davis took over the role of the Phantom last year and spent a lot of time considering his dream role. While playing the famed Phantom, Davis chatted with BWW about his take on the character and what life lessons he's learned along the way.
What are some of your favorite roles you've had over the years not including Phantom?
Mufasa was one of my dream roles. To play the king of the Pride Lands was amazing. And then to cover the role of Scar. The polar opposite of the same show (THE LION KING) was great. Playing Curtis in DREAMGIRLS in Dallas just this past year was a different kind of performance for me so I definitely enjoyed that. I think those are the three other than Phantom which is the top.
You've been in THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA for a little while now. Tell us how you got the role and what it's been like touring with the show.
Getting the role, it's the audition process you go through with any role. This one was a little more intense obviously because it's such an iconic role and they want to make sure they have the right person to play it. The most interesting part of the process for me was walking into my final audition, my final callback and there was a camera crew. I didn't know what was going on. They said, "Don't worry about it. Don't ask any questions." We did it as we'd done it before and then at the end they said, "Well, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh give the final approval so we have to have the last few candidates be recorded and then we send the footage over to them and they make the decision." Thank God they saw what I did and liked it. So, here I am. And being on tour is like a dream within a dream. Not only do I get the opportunity to play my favorite role of all time - I've seen Phantom over 15 times prior to becoming part of the company - but also, it affords me the opportunity to see my own country. Cities that I've never been to, some that I have been to and it just gives me a greater appreciation for the U.S.
What are some of your favorite places you have visited so far?
The most shocking place that I loved was Detroit. I had only heard negative about Detroit. And that's one of the things that I'm loving, seeing the country with my own eyes. There are cities that people say aren't great cities or people have strong opinions about; I get to form my own opinion. I think every city has something phenomenal and culturally diverse to offer. It's just a wonder to get to experience that from place to place and try to unearth those jewels that are there.
The music in Phantom seems to be a little more difficult for some to learn. How as it learning the music for you?
I listened to the music for so long. The range of the vocal parts for the characters in the show are so large that it does require a bit more offstage warmup and focus. I don't talk as much during the day as I used to. I don't hang out like I used to. This show is taking precedence right now in my life. As a vocalist and as a featured character, I have to be very aware of fact that I have a show coming. I thank God for my training throughout my entire life, my college training and everything like that. That prepared me to be able to maneuver through a vocal character like this. It is difficult. There are very, very deep parts, very high parts and a lot of times when the Phantom is performing, there are very emotionally driven moments so you never just lay back in a song. It is tough but not impossible.
What are some life lessons you've learned from being in PHANTOM OF THE OPERA?
I've taken to really studying the orchestrations and the writings of Andrew Lloyd Webber in this particular production. I've found that though the melody lines are sweeping, that they go very high and very low, they're fairly simple. It think that's one of the elements that gives the show and the music such longevity, that both music lovers and music novices can grab hold of the melody lines. If you take it apart from the orchestrations, it almost sounds "nursery rhymish" sometimes because it's very simple and beautiful. But then, the orchestration that undergirds the music is so incredibly passionate and so emotional and can tell the story all by itself in my opinion. It's the perfect marriage between the two. So, one of the life lessons that I learned is do the work that needs to be done in life and what's really hard, but live really simply. Extravagance is not always necessary. There are moments of it. A nice hot crusty toasted piece of bread with butter is just as delicious as a filet mignon. Through his music, that's one of the things that I've extracted. And also, the importance of friends and family. Being away from my main circle of friends and family is difficult being on the road. Also, the family that I've found in the cast of the Phantom is such a beautiful thing because we're all we have from city to city so we really are like a travelling family; gypsies of sorts. It's another lesson that I've learned. I could go on and on and on. There are so many lessons.
PHANTOM OF THE OPERA features a brilliant new scenic design by Paul Brown, new staging by director Laurence Connor and is overseen by Matthew Bourne and Cameron Mackintosh. PHANTOM OF THE OPERA plays at Bass Concert Hall in Austin from April 19-April 30, 2017. Tickets are limited. Get yours by going to their website.