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: Massasoit Theatre’s Company’s ‘Heathers the Musical’ is big fun with a razor’s edge

At first glance, Massasoit Theatre Company’s Heathers the Musical possesses the earmarks of a classic musical production.  Enter calculating villains and an unlikely hero singing thought-provoking songs in a retro setting wearing distinctive, colorful costumes.  Every meaningful musical usually also delivers a powerful message and it is part love story.  Yes, Heathers delivers all these things, but like its satirical film predecessor, does it in the unlikeliest of ways.  A musical quite faithful to the original film right down its vocabulary of memorable catch phrases, here is fair warning that this production is not suitable for children and contains mature themes.

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Massasoit Theatre Company’s ‘Heathers the Musical’ cast Photo courtesy of Massasoit Theatre Company

Directed skillfully by Nathan Fogg, Massasoit Theatre Company presents Heathers the Musical continuing through Sunday, April 15 at Massasoit Community College in the Buckley Performing Arts Center at 1 Massasoit Boulevard in Brockton, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

Going into Heathers the Musical, it was difficult to imagine a musical as dark as the satiric comedy film starring Winona Ryder, Shannen Doherty, and Christian Slater.  However, Massasoit captures the film’s high energy, blunt, and darkly humorous look at high school where being popular is seemingly the only means for survival.  With an array of songs that are both humorous and shocking, it also deals with many social issues that high school students face today, but stands outside reality from it just enough to see from the outside.

Arrive early because Heathers the Musical does an excellent job setting the 80s mood through vintage Mtv videos and commercials as well as a unique introduction from the show’s producer, Mark Rocheteau.  Not only does Heathers feature a multi-layered set design with its share of special effects, but Jennifer Spagone’s symbolic costume design contrast bold colors with pale to represent different high school personalities while exacting the iconic fashion from the film.

Before the Plastics leapt onto the screen in the hit film Mean Girls, there were the Heathers.  If the Plastics ruled with a heavy hand, the Heathers ruled with an iron fist.  Adorned in strictly bold, primary colors and slinking into the school as if on a catwalk, CJ Hawes in red depicts Heather Chandler with charismatic cruelty, her head held high and an ego as inflated as her big hair.  CJ’s soprano vocals have an appealing belt and growl while she shares great chemistry with the other Heathers, especially during the numbers Big Fun and Candy Store.  She barks orders to sympathetic subordinate Heather Duke portrayed by Stephanie Wallace.  Dressed in emerald green, Stephanie portrays Heather with a suppressed, bullied demeanor.  Morgan Campbell in yellow portrays anxious, but friendly Heather McNamara with flair and offers a great rendition of the number, Lifeboat.

Heathers the Musical Veronica and J.D

Sara Comeau portrays Veronica and Sean Neary as J.D. Photo courtesy of Massasoit Theatre Company

 

Sara Comeau in blue plays awkward and conflicted Veronica Sawyer.  A complicated role, Sara captures Veronica’s clever, contemplative, and at times, sarcastic demeanor with great comic timing.  Veronica and Sean Neary as quiet and mysterious J.D. have compelling chemistry as they navigate the dark side of high school.

Heathers the Musical Jocks

Jack Cappadona as Kurt and Anthony Light as Ram Photo courtesy of Massasoit Theatre Company

 

Anthony Light and Jack Cappadona are immensely comical as mindless and merciless jocks while Emily Buckley as Martha evokes a sweet and impalpable loneliness.  Kels Ferguson plays a dual role as Mrs. Fleming and Mrs. Sawyer.  She brought down the house with her upbeat version of Shine a Light.

Heathers the Musical Shine

Shine a Light Photo courtesy of Massasoit Theatre Company

With a retro and dark, but powerful message, Massasoit Theatre Company presents Heathers the Musical continuing through Sunday, April 15 at Massasoit Community College in the Buckley Performing Arts Center at 1 Massasoit Boulevard in Brockton, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and for tickets.  Follow Massasoit Theatre Company on Facebook.

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

The Academy of the Company Theatre Teen Conservatory will hold auditions for dark comedy, ‘Heathers the Musical’

No avoiding a mean girl.  Long before queen bee Regina George and the Plastics ruled the school in the satirical teen comedy film, Mean Girls, the Heathers dominated Westerberg High in the dark cult comedy film, Heathers.  The Academy of the Company Theatre Teen Conservatory (T.C.T.) will hold auditions for Heathers the Musical (High School Edition) on Monday, June 6 with callbacks on Tuesday, June 7 at the Company Theatre in Norwell, Massachusetts at 6 p.m.  Teen actors from age 13 through college age are invited to audition.  Click here and check back for further details on auditions.

Heathers the Musical is based on the 1988 film adaptation that stars Winona Ryder, Shannen Doherty, and Christian Slater.  A television adaptation is also in development.  Taking a look at the ruthless side of high school, clever Veronica finds her way into the Heathers, Westerberg High’s ultimate, cruel clique, just as she encounters mysterious new guy, J.D.  In a wild scheme, Veronica plans to show the world life is so much more than popularity.

Audition candidates should be prepared to sing 16 to 24 bars of a song from the show or similar musical style.  A headshot or snapshot and a resume is preferred at the audition, but not required.  Audition candidates may bring their own sheet music, but the score will be available with accompaniment.  Audition candidates will be charged a non-refundable $10 audition fee.  Click here for further details on the A.C.T. Summer Workshop and to the emergency form to be completed prior to the audition.

Performances for the Academy of the Company Theatre’s Teen Conservatory of Heathers the Musical (High School Edition) will be held at the Company Theatre, 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts on July 13 and 14 at 7 p.m.  For further information about the auditions, email ACT@companytheatre.com, or call the box office at 1-781-871-2787.  Click here for more information about the Company Theatre’s fabulous 2017 season and follow them on Facebook.