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Broadway Q&A: James Davis of ‘Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!’

Category Broadway

|by Jeryl Brunner |

“There are so many reflections of what is happening in today's America that we are unearthing in this show.”

James Davis plays Will Parker in the revival of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! This evocative and daring production, directed by Daniel Fish, won the Tony Award for Best Musical Revival. This version of Oklahoma! began at Bard College SummerScape, and went on to be performed at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn. Now playing on Broadway at the Circle in the Square Theatre, the musical contains beloved songs like “Oh What A Beautiful Mornin',” “Surrey With A Fringe On Top,” “People Will Say We’re In Love” and “Oklahoma.” Davis as Will Parker is desperately trying to win the love of Ado Annie (a marvelous Ali Stroker). He has appeared in The House of Blue Leaves with Ben Stiller, Edie Falco and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Davis has also starred in We Are Proud to Present, The Mother of Invention and The More Loving One. A Juilliard School graduate, he has performed at many theater companies, including The Pearl Theater Company, LaMaMa and Soho Playhouse. 

Ali Stroker and James Davis as Ado Annie and Will Parker in ‘Oklahoma!’ (Photo: Little Fang Photo)

Ali Stroker and James Davis as Ado Annie and Will Parker in ‘Oklahoma!’ (Photo: Little Fang Photo)

How did you first hear about this production of Oklahoma!?
James Davis: I had just moved out to LA, and this was the first audition that I got after I had moved. They asked me to put myself on tape for a regional theater production of Oklahoma! I thought, “I don't know. I’ve come this far and traveled across the country just to go back to do a musical that is done out of town a lot.” And then I saw the director’s name attached: Daniel Fish. I had done some workshops, but never any productions with him. I thought, “This is going to be something different. This is going to be worth my time, and worth coming back for.”  

Why do you love Will Parker?
JD: Will’s intentions are extremely pure, for better or worse. All he wants is the love of Ado Annie. And that is his sole intention throughout the entire show. I believe people like to latch on to Will because of the clarity of his intentions. He is a guy who knows what he wants, and you can see him go after it. He is not a very complicated guy.

How would you respond if someone said, “I’ve seen Oklahoma! a thousand times. Why should I see this version?”
: In this production, we are exploring, with integrity, the underbelly of the story. We are exploring what it means to be an outsider versus an insider. We are exploring a community that takes justice into its own hands. There are so many reflections of what is happening in today's America that we are unearthing in this show as it is written. We are not adding anything. We are just pulling out what is there.

What was one of the first Broadway shows that you ever saw?
JD: I believe it was Beauty and the Beast. My mom is a tour operator. She brings groups to New York and sets up their travel. And she takes a lot of trips to New York. When I was in high school, I was on a tour with her from where we lived in Missouri. I came to New York and saw Beauty and the Beast and also Cabaret. Those are two different, special shows. I thought, and continue to think, “How do they do this every night?”

For more of the best of Broadway this season, check out our list of the Top Shows in New York in August 2019

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