Renowned Broadway producer Ken Davenport talks Tony Awards, Hollywood, and ‘Gettin’ the Band Back Together’

Ambitious Tony award-winning Broadway and off-Broadway theatre producer and writer Ken Davenport has had a passion for theatre his entire life.  He has produced renowned musicals from Godspell to Kinky Boots to this year’s Tony-nominated Once on This Island and helms the North American activity for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group.  Dedicated to bridge the gap between the stage and its audience, he is also behind an interactive theatre app, Didhelikeit as well as the hit board game, Be a Broadway Star.

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Ken Davenport Photo courtesy of Ken Davenport

Ken talked to Sleepless Critic about when he first discovered the theatre, Hollywood and the Tony Awards, and his upcoming musical comedy, Gettin’ the Band Back Together.  Click here for more on Ken Davenport and see who the the big winners are on the 72nd annual Tony Awards on Sunday June 10.

The 72nd Annual Tony Awards hosts

Hosts Josh Groban and Sara Bareilles Photo credit: Cliff_Lipson-CBS

Sleepless Critic:  What awakened your interest in theatre and how did the opportunity to become a Broadway producer come about?

Ken Davenport:  My mom told me I first kicked when she was watching a production of Godspell, so I think I’ve always wanted to be part of the theatre.  I produced the first revival of Godspell on Broadway in 2011.

Being a producer is like starting your own business.  Opportunities don’t come about.  You have to make them happen.

SC:  What do you like most about producing and what production did you find to be the most challenging?

KD:  I love watching the audience’s expressions on their faces at the end of the show whether they are laughing, crying, or cheering.  We’ve affected them and that’s a joy to watch.

The most challenging part of producing is getting everyone on the same page.  It’s like getting ten people to paint the Mona Lisa.

SC:  Is there a show you turned down that you ended up wishing you were a part of?

KD:  Nah, I have no regrets.  I’ve passed on shows that have gone on to be hits, but they weren’t me.  They still wouldn’t be me, even if I had a few more bucks in my pocket.  I’d much rather stay true to what I want to do.

SC:  The musical, Mean Girls is one of the big Tony nominees this year and it is one of many Hollywood to Broadway musical crossovers.  From Pretty Woman to Heathers, do you think that this method has been an effective way to draw a wider audience to Broadway?  From what I’ve seen of Mean Girls and having recently seen Waitress, it seems to be working well.

KD:  Movies have become a common source for adaptations in the last ten years, but it doesn’t guarantee success.  I think the adaptations that work best are the ones that don’t have super popular source material.  It’s like when a movie is made from a book.  Most people think the book is better.  That happens a lot when popular movies are made into musicals.  It’s a very high hurdle to jump over.

SC:  What has been your favorite Hollywood to Broadway crossover musical so far?

KD:  Kinky Boots because I am one of the producers.

SC:  From classic musicals like Rogers and Hammerstein’s Carousel to Spongebob Squarepants, what nominations most surprised you and which did you think should have been nominated?

KD:  I think my choreographer from Once on this Island, Camille A. Brown should have been nominated as well as Alex Newell.

SC:  Which do you predict will be the standout production to win?  I’m sure you were thrilled when Once on This Island was nominated, a show you have produced.

KD:  I think the awards this year will be spread out amongst several shows rather than one big winner taking home multiple awards.

SC:  You work to make Broadway a more interactive experience.  Please tell me about the apps you promote.

KD:  We have an app for our website, Didhelikeit.com that gives you a snapshot of show reviews and focuses on the New York Times.

Gettin the Band Back Together

‘Gettin’ the Band Back Together’ premieres on July 19.

SC:  Just a few of the productions you have worked on is Groundhog DaySpring Awakening, and The Play That Goes Wrong.  The musical comedy, Getting the Band Back Together is coming up.

KD:  I’m super excited about Gettin’ the Band Back Together, which starts performances on July 19.  It’s such a fun show to be a part of and totally original.  It has an original story, music, etc.  It’s going to be a blast so come see it!

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Click here for more information on Ken Davenport and here for more on Ken’s current project, Gettin’ the Band Back Together.  Hosted by Josh Groban and Sara Bareilles, find out who wins on CBS for the 72nd annual Tony Awards on Sunday June 10 at 8 p.m.  Follow The Tony Awards on Facebook.

For Performing Arts news, interviews, reviews, and much more in Boston and beyond, follow us on Facebook @sleeplesscritic and subscribe.

REVIEW: Kristin Chenoweth thrills Boston with her unshakable optimism, humor, and unstoppable vocals

“Boston is my second favorite place in the world,” reveals a glimmering Kristin Chenoweth, “Don’t tell New York.”  Wearing a black, glitzy cocktail dress paired with shining silver pumps and a megawatt smile, award-winning singer and film, television, and musical theatre actress Kristin Chenoweth excitedly burst onto the Boston Symphony Hall stage, standing before an equally shimmering microphone as the crowd roared.  “I feel like I’m in Oklahoma,” she revealed, sipping from a large Dunkin’ Donuts cup, “It feels right.”

It also felt right for the enthusiastic, packed house as Chenoweth kicked off her one night only, Celebrity Series of Boston debut of An Intimate Evening with Kristin Chenoweth on Sunday, April 30.  Symphony Hall was appropriately lit in Chenoweth’s signature color as Greek statues above the balconies gave off a violet and pink hue.

Celebrity Series Symphony stage

Celebrity Series of Boston at Symphony Hall Photo courtesy of Jeanne Denizard

Greeting the audience with Should I be Sweet by Vincent Millie Youmans from the musical, Take a Chance, a thrilling, flirtatious ode debating the perfect way to present oneself, Chenoweth immediately lured the audience in with her engaging, vivacious, and wonderfully charming personality as well as her rich, unstoppable vocals.  From beautiful stories about her parents to her unfailingly optimistic, humorous, and unbridled reflections on her life and career, Chenoweth proved not only a brilliant entertainer, but an incredible joy just to spend time with.

Accompanied by her Worcester-raised Music Director Michael Orland on piano, who is also the vocal coach to the hit show, Little Big Shots, Kristin Chenoweth spoke about a few of her past career highlights in television such as GCB, West Wing, Glee, Pushing Daisies, and Hairspray Live, to new projects such as a recently filmed pilot set in Boston as well as her new role on American Gods that premiered on Starz that same evening.  Chenoweth also revealed a few significant roles that horrified her God-fearing parents, having been raised in the Bible belt in Oklahoma.  For instance, having heard about Chenoweth’s new role as a witch in Wicked, Jerry and Judy Chenoweth shockingly asked, “Is the show satanic?”  She also launched into the scandalous Broadway tune from the hit musical, A Chorus Line called Dance Ten Looks Three, cheekily toning down the lyrics to coincide with her conservative upbringing.

Kristin Chenoweth in Boston

Photo courtesy of Robert Torres/Celebrity Series of Boston

What makes An Intimate Evening with Kristin Chenoweth so powerful is for that evening, Chenoweth’s uplifting view of life helped to make life a bit more bearable, even in its sadder moments.  Her recitation of The Obituary of the Pillsbury Doughboy was a particular highlight as a moment of silly humor following a glorious and emotional rendition of the beloved song, Bring Him Home from the musical, Les Miserables as she alluded to the Boston and Oklahoma bombings, a painful reminder of what Boston and her hometown have in common.

Chenoweth warmly shared her early experiences longing to become a ballerina, her surprising friendship with Julie Andrews, and what inspired her latest Grammy-nominated album full of Chenoweth’s favorite songs from the American Songbook, The Art of Elegance.  She sang a poignant, timeless selection from the album by Hoagie Carmichael and Johnny Mercer, I Get Along Without You Very Well.  She also delivered a few of her signature songs with lively exuberance such as Taylor, The Latte Boy and Popular from the musical, Wicked, her soaring, silvery, classically-trained vocals dancing from pop to operatic, perfectly complementing her witty sense of humor.

Kristin Chenoweth on Symphony Hall stage

Kristin Chenoweth with the Boston Conservatory and the Boston City Singers Photo courtesy of Robert Torres/Celebrity Series of Boston

Chenoweth surprised the audience by bringing out the Boston Conservatory and Boston City Singers to join her onstage to perform as she expressed her love of mentoring students and her love of all faiths.  “For those who don’t believe,” Chenoweth added, “this will be over in four minutes.”  Accompanied by the two choirs, she launched into the worship song, Upon this Rock.  Her performance closed with what Chenoweth refers to as her anthem, I was Here, though her tender, memorable encore, Smile, may have also stayed with the audience long after the show was over.

Click here to see where the award-winning Kristin Chenoweth will be touring next as well as how to get a copy of her latest album, The Art of Elegance.  A few performances remain in the Celebrity Series of Boston’s season.  Click here for tickets and for a closer look at this season’s shows and here to take a peek at their recently announced 2017-18 season.  Follow Celebrity Series of Boston on Facebook and Twitter for updates.