Ken Davenport is an award-winning producer whose list of credits includes Broadway and Off-Broadway plays such as revival of "Macbeth", "Godspell", "Oleanna", "Speed the Plow", "You're Welcome America", "Blithe 13", "Altar Boyz", "The Awesome 80s Prom", "My First Time", and "Kinky Boots" which won the 2013 Tony Award for Best Musical. He was featured on a national commercial for the iPhone, named one of Crain's Forty Under 40 for 2008, and runs a blog about theatre at http://www.theproducersperspective.com .
new musical, "Getting the Band Back Together", makes its debut at
George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick this month. The play revolves
around Mitch Martino who is 40 and has just been fired from his job on
Wall Street. He moves back to Mom's house in Sayreville, NJ and
reconnects with the old gang for an epic high-stakes battle of the
You can catch the initial run of "Getting the Band Back
Together" September 24 - October 27 at George Street. Judging by his
track record, the play will almost certainly be moving on to a New York
City location in the near future. New Jersey Stage caught up with Ken
during final rehearsals in New Brunswick.
I love the idea
behind this play - a guy in his forties gets fired and moves back to his
mother's house (in Jersey, of course) and reconnects with his old
bandmates and puts the band back together. How did the idea come to
you? Did you bump into someone with a story like that?
everyone has dreams of being a rock star at some point in their life,
whether they're singing in the shower or watching something on tv. I
don't remember exactly what it was, I just imagined that all of those
people like myself - I was in a band growing up and thinking about doing
it again. And then something very specific happened. After I started
working on it, I was sitting around a table for a union negotiation and
our lawyer practically jumped out of his seat. He had his Blackberry in
his hand and he said, "Yes!" I took it as a sign we had gotten what we
wanted or that the negotiation was over. I said, "What is it?" He
said, "We got a gig!"
I was like "what?" and he said "My partners
here at the firm and I put together a rock band and we're playing my
buddy's bar mitzvah!" He was so excited he had to share it with all of
us. He had found a way to bring back the joy that he had at 18, playing
music, and being with his buddies - and that's so much of what this
show is really about.
Is it true that your "garage band" was a jazz trio?
is true. I also managed because I didn't have a lot of talent. I'm
not really a rocker kind of guy. I managed another band that was very
short lived and I was in another band where I played a little bit of
bass, but the primary one was the jazz trio. We were going to play
Barry Manilow tunes at weddings.
Dreaming big, eh?
Since word got out about the play, have people been coming up to you and telling their own band stories?
absolutely. I talk about what I do a lot and people always ask me what
are you working on and when I tell them about this show I usually see
their eyes light up in front of me. Because they immediately know what
it means and what it's about. I usually ask if they were in a band and
the memories just come flooding out.
What's it been like working at George Street Playhouse?
an incredible group of people. There are a couple of people that were
involved in the original conception of the show that are now speaking
words, some of which they helped write through improve rehearsals many
years ago. I couldn't be more blessed. I was thinking about this the
other day: four years ago this was just an idea in my head. Then we put
all the stuff down on paper and now to be so lucky to have these actors
speaking these words and singing these tunes it's just an incredible
Do you get the same type of thrill producing a show as
you do producing a show that you actually wrote? Is there a difference
Well, sure there's a difference. When you're sitting in
a rehearsal room like I am now and you're watching something that four
years ago was just an idea in your head and now is being physically
realized in front of you it's quite a thrill.
And, a lot more nerve-wracking?
of course. (He laughs) With more thrills come more nerves! There's no
question. It's like riding a roller coaster. It's exciting to get on,
but you're also going to be scared.
So, what's the deal with
having the schlub come back to New Jersey? It that another dig at us
here? I saw an interview where you said audiences automatically laugh
when you say the words New Jersey.
Look, this is a show that is
set in New Jersey and is a little about that New Jersey rock and roll
experience. New Jersey has given the world some of the greatest rock
bands of all time. And I thought it was real important to debut the
show here. Obviously, we have big hopes and dreams for the show going
forward, but I thought the first audience that should witness it should
be a Jersey audience.
Speaking of music that New Jersey has
brought to the world... they may be a Columbus, Ohio band, but lead
singer Scott Terry is from South Jersey. Tell me about your film
project on the band Red Wanting Blue - "These Magnificent Miles". How
did that film come about? It's hard enough thinking about doing a film
about a famous band, but even harder to do one on a band the mainstream
world has never heard about.
That was one of the reasons I wanted
to do that. I was first introduced to that band because Scott's
girlfriend was the lead (head cheerleader) in my show "The Awesome 80s
Prom". One night after the show she begged me, she said, "You've got to
hear my boyfriend's band." I offered her a hundred dollars if I could
not go! And she wouldn't take it. She begged and begged and begged and
she got me there and I was blown away. It was not only the talent level
on the stage and the music, but when they were done blowing the roof
off of the joint, they packed up all of their gear, put it in the van,
and got ready to go to the next town. I was just amazed by that.
talked to them over a long time about doing stuff - even a musical at
one point - and I realized the story I really wanted to tell about them
was their own. Most bands have a shelf life of like a year and a half or
two years, but for some reason that band just will not quit. They keep
going and going and going. They're so passionate, love what they do so
much, and they work so hard. They sleep in that van! And I did it with
them in 100 degrees heat. It's a tough life, but they will not give
up. And that's an amazing story.
question: you have had a great string of successes in the past few
years. You also are very active in social media, often speak at
seminars, and run a popular blog. Do you think the constant interaction
helps you have more of a pulse on what people want? Has that played a
role in your success?
I'd say this, I like to listen to people. I
listened to that lawyer get excited and listened to other people talk
about their garage bands. I know that's something that resonates with a
lot of people. So I decided to create something that could galvanize
that emotion within them. I just like to listen and social media and
the web allows me to do that. I write a blog, but the most interesting
thing about that blog is not what I say but the conversations. I get to
listen and hear what people think about the theatre today. Listening
makes you a better anything. And I think listening makes me a better
producer and a better creator because I have an idea what's on top of