Monday, September 14, 2009

Backstage Blog: THE BALLAD OF JOE CABLE

by Brendan Lemon

You might not think it to look at him, but Anderson Davis, who plays Lt. Joe Cable, was an oboist in high school. It isn't that I think oboists come in a particular size and shape, it's just that when you hear Davis sing you can't believe that this native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana wasn't always performing on the stage, not in the pit below it.

"My first exposure to musicals, really, was playing in the high school orchestra"

Davis said recently over coffee at a Starbuck's near South Pacific's New York rehearsal room. "It took a lot of air to play the oboe, and a lot of focus. You can get a little light in the head."

So why did he transition to the stage? (His first musical as a performer was "Anything Goes.") "I wanted to do something more physically active," he says - a remark that made perfect sense to me after I spent five minutes in Davis's company. You could power a small city with his stay-up-all-night-and-still-do-two-shows-the-next-day energy.

Since graduating from Carnegie-Mellon's theater program three years ago, that energy has been steadily harnessed. Davis has done the classics ("Les Miz," "Damn Yankees," "Forum") and some lesser-known stuff ("Homemade Fusion"). He appreciates the opportunities provided by musicals, as well as the pay, but he would like to do a straight drama at some point. "And my biggest dream as an actor," he adds, "is to do something new."

If that something new happened to be by Adam Guettel, I suspect that Davis's enthusiasm would be so boundless he might need a whole bottle of Valium to restore his equilibrium. "Adam Guettel keeps my hope alive for the musical theater - makes me feel that it has a future," Davis comments. Referring to a 1998 Guettel song cycle, Davis adds, "I directed a production of 'Myths and Hymns' at Carnegie-Mellon, which I enjoyed a lot."


For more rehearsal photos, click here.

Davis is aware, of course, of the connection between Guettel and South Pacific director Bartlett Sher (Sher directed Guettel's "The Light in the Piazza"), but the actor speaks of his director in more general terms. "Bart is so good at telling a story," Davis says. "That's not always the main priority with musicals. I'm grateful to be a part of that."

Doing eight shows a week may satisfy Davis's interpretive side, but it doesn't quite harness his creative mojo. "I have a little recording studio in my apartment," he says, "and I'm always playing around there." And who are his songwriting inspirations?

"Jeff Buckley, for sure," Davis says. "And Bjork: going to one of her concerts is as close as I've been to heaven on earth."

I cannot terminate this blog entry without mentioning New Orleans. Davis's two brothers live there, having been washed out by Katrina and moving back.

"They have this big instrument they've put together called the Drum Cart,"

Davis says. "It basically consists of two drum kits fused together into a kind of mini float. They play it at special occasions and at big parades. My usual job is to pull it along." Davis says that during the "SP" tour's week off after its first engagement in San Francisco, he plans to go to New Orleans for its annual Halloween celebration.

"The Drum Cart will be out in full force. The general theme for our costuming will be something along the Medical experiment/genetic manipulation line."

"Young Frankenstein"? I ask. "Sounds like it," Davis replies.

For more photos from the rehearsal, follow the link to the South Pacific on Tour Facebook page.

END

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