Friday, January 6, 2017

PHX Stages Q/A: Sydney Davis

by Gil Benbrook

Originally from the midwest, Sydney Davis has graced the stages of various theatres in the Valley in parts both comical and serious. Some of her recent roles include the villainous. scenery chewing Mrs. Meers in Thoroughly Modern Millie and Julian Marsh's energetic dance assistant in 42nd Street.

She's also appeared in numerous productions at the Herberger Lunch Time Theater and tonight, along with a talented group of actresses, she opens in Love, Loss and What I Wore at Scottsdale Desert Stages Theatre, which runs through February 12th.

Based on the bestselling book by Ilene Beckerman, and adapted by Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron,
Love, Loss and What I Wore is a collection of stories that focus on the important subjects and issues in women's lives and the important articles of clothing that hold a special place or significant remembrance. The play is told in a series of monologues and ensemble pieces with Davis appearing alongside a group of talented Valley actresses including  Vanessa Benjamin, Dyana Carroll,
Mary Magiera, Virginia Olivieri and Rebecca Wierman.

Sydney took a break from final rehearsals to answer the PHX Stages Q/A.

42nd Street
Desert Stages Theatre - 2015
photo by Heather Butcher
Name: Sydney Davis

Where you were born and or raised:  I grew up in Akron, Ohio.  Our house was next to a barn and a corn field, which might explain why I insisted on wearing my cowgirl outfit everyday to nursery school, adorned with a stylish rhinestone pin and suede purse.  There was no public transportation to elementary school so the school janitor picked us up every morning in his black Ford station wagon.

What brought you to Arizona?   I was living in Toledo, Ohio when I graduated from law school—need I say more?
What your parents did/do for a living:   My father was a chemist and my mother, an actress, though she never made a living acting.

Siblings:   My beautiful, brilliant, enchanting, funny, intelligent sister.  (Paula, did I get it right?  If I would have said tall, everyone would have known I was lying).
Day job/part time job: Before I retired, I was a trial attorney.  But I always had the acting bug.  I fantasized about presenting a case as a musical, draping myself across the prosecutor’s table, while announcing:  “The State Rests.”

First show you ever saw:  That’s going back a long time and it would have been a musical in summer stock in Warren, Ohio.

The one performance you attended that you will never forget:  There are so many but one stands out from the others, not so much for the show itself but the date of the show.  It was one of the first “rock musicals”, Your Own Thing.  I loved it- my father-not so much.  When we came out of the theater, the streets of New York were eerily quiet.  We learned that Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated earlier that evening.

First stage kiss: Still waiting for it!

photo by Wade Woran
What has been the most fun or fulfilling aspect of your current recent show? Working with these wonderful women, and, Gary Zaro, has been so enjoyable.  The show reflects on so many life experiences that we are constantly going off book, relating our own experiences, and laughing all the time.  In a very short time, we have learned so much about each other, which makes our performances stronger.
Any upcoming or side projects you can talk about?  In March, I will be appearing in my 11th 16 Bars Production at the Herberger Lunch Time Theater.  It is an original cabaret:  Coupled,  A Relationship Revue.

What was the first show you performed in and what did you learn from it that you still use today? I was the lead in my summer camp production of Once Upon a Mattress and learned that you should not chew gum while performing.

Leading role you've been dying to play:   Norma Desmond, just so I can say my favorite line:  “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”  I would love to play Frau Blucher in Young Frankenstein.
Leading role of the opposite sex you wish you could play:   I could say Peter Pan—but that has already been done, so maybe Max Bialystock in The Producers.

with Drew Brantley and Jeremy Cruz inThoroughly Modern Millie -Desert Stages Theatre - 2016
photo by Heather Butcher
Pre-show rituals or warm-ups:  Getting out the trowel to put on my make-up, and, right before we all go on stage, quoting the line from The Princess Bride: “Have fun storming the castle” accompanied by my best Queen Elizabeth wave.

Worst flubbed line/missed cue/onstage mishap:   I was in a cabaret at Theatre Artists Studio and I drew a blank on the opening lines to “100 Ways to Lose a Man”, a Comden and Green song that I knew forwards and backwards--at least I thought I did!   And then there was the time I made a grand entrance—albeit, one scene too early--but I was playing a drunk so if the audience caught it, I hope they thought I was just in character.
Worst costume ever:   Without a doubt, it would have to be the sequined tube top I wore in 42nd Street.  I only wore it for 30 seconds, but that was 30 seconds too long!

Best costume ever:  An evening gown that I wore in 42nd Street-and I only wore it for 30 seconds –but loved it!

with Molly LaJoie and Marcia Weinberg im 
Hart to Heart- Theatre Artists Studio 2014
photo by Mark Gluckman
Your go to audition monologue/song:  A comedic monologue from Stepping Out.

Worst audition experience:  Starting a tap audition one beat late and never getting back into it—though the second time through, I nailed it!

If you could go back in time and catch any performer or show, what would they/it be?  Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall.

Famous past stage or screen star(s) you would have loved to have performed with:  Fred Astaire

Current/recent show other than one of your own you have been recommending
to friends:  There have been so many great shows this season.  Phoenix Theatre’s In The Heights,  Hale Theatre’s West Side Story,  ATC’s King Charles III, Theatre Artists Studio’s The Price and Stray Cats’ Anything You Hear and Only Half of What You See were at the top of my list.

Favorite play(s):  Many of the plays that have been produced as part of the National Theatre Live series as well as some of the classics like A Streetcar named Desire and Death of a Salesman.  There have been some wonderful newer plays; Doubt, Clybourne Park, and Rabbit Hole, to name a few.
Favorite musical(s):   Sweeney Todd, Side Show, Chicago, and anything with tapping in it.  Of course, any show that I am in immediately becomes my favorite!
Some favorite modern plays/musicals:  Roe, by Lisa Loomer which follows the lives of those involved in the Roe v. Wade decision; Party People by Universes a musical dealing with the turmoil of the 60’s and 70’s, Next to Normal; and Hamilton for their sheer brilliance.

Favorite showtune(s) of all time:   Although I always threaten to sing the Soliloquy from Carousel, which is a mere 8 minutes long, I love patter songs.  Coffee in a Cardboard Cup, Tonight at Eight and Tchaikovsky are some of my favorites.  Some Other Time and He’s No Good would also be on my list of favorites.  

Most listened song/music on your iPod/Phone?  That would be recordings from the show for which I’m either auditioning or rehearsing.

First CD/Tape/LP you owned: Peter and the Wolf, though I doubt that I bought it, I do recall playing it constantly when I was young.

Silverbelles Semi-Professional Holiday Tour
front row  Judy LeBeau and Davis
back row Sue Back, Charlotte Brooks, Andrea Dovner
Herberger Lunch Time Theater - 2012
Last good book you read:    The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North.  It is a story about an art-house film director as told by her friends and family.

Last good movie you saw: Manchester by the Sea

Favorite movie: My go to movie if I want to laugh is Young Frankenstein—if you have a couple of hours I can recite every line.

Music/book/movie that makes you cry:  The Color Purple

Favorite restaurant in the Valley:  “B” restaurants:  Bianco’s, Barrio Café, El Bravo and FnB.

Favorite cities:   New York      

Worst non-theatre job you've had:  My first professional job was teaching 4th grade and, though I enjoyed teaching, my initial experience did not go smoothly.  The day school was to start, the teachers went on strike.  I was 20 years old and not equipped to decide whether or not to cross the picket line, and the potential consequences of my decision.
Words of advice for aspiring performers: It sounds corny but it is never too late to pursue your dreams.

What you love most about theatre in Phoenix:  The amazing level of talent in this city. I have met so many wonderful people whose friendships I cherish and I love going to see them in shows.

What you think needs to be changed/improved/different about theatre in Phoenix: Because there is such great talent here, it is disappointing when major roles go to non-local talent.

And, the “Inside the Actors Studio” 10 questions:

1. What is your favorite word?  Energy

2. What is your least favorite word?  Sloth

3. What turns you on?  People excelling at what they do

4. What turns you off?  Bigotry

5. What sound do you love?  Children’s belly laugh

6. What sound do you hate?  Siren

7. What is your favorite curse word?  Fuck

8. What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?  Musician

9. What profession would you not like to do?  Detention Officer

10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?  “And you thought I wouldn’t let you in!”

CLICK HERE for more information on Love, Loss, and What I Wore, which runs through February 12th


  1. Great profile! Congratulations Sydney, can't wait to see the show. Thanks for the 16 Bars shoutout!

  2. Oh Sydney.........this is a keeper!!!!😂

  3. Sydney, this is Fantastic! The southern family contingent is So Proud. And no question that Aunt and Uncle are smiling. Jeff

  4. Sydney, This is fantastic! The southern family contingent is so proud. Aunt and uncle are certainly smiling.