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Bellevue actress Sarah Rose Davis steps from ensemble to center stage
For five years, actress Sarah Rose Davis of Bellevue has worked in the background as an ensemble performer, helping to fill out the grand spectacle of shows like “Spamalot,” “The Pirates of Penzance” and “Damn Yankees.”
“A lot of time the audience doesn’t realize the ensemble (cast is) rushing around behind the scenes to get ready for their next appearance,” Davis, 25, said. “A lot of times, an ensemble member is playing two or three or more characters, with costume changes for each one.
“Or it could be the opposite and you have a lot of downtime, but then you need to know exactly when your scene is happening and be out on stage at just the right time.”
Davis will debut in her first professional leading role May 15 when she appears as Fanny Brice in Village Theatre’s production of “Funny Girl.” The musical is loosely based on the life of the vaudevillian singer and actress, focusing on her early fame and romance with Nick Arnstein, a professional gambler and white collar criminal. The show’s depiction of Brice provided a young Barbra Streisand with her breakout role: it’s overnight stage success rocketed her into the public eye, and Streisand’s turn in the 1968 film adaptation earned her the Academy Award for Best Actress.
Though “Funny Girl” is a mostly fictionalized retelling of Brice’s life, Davis said she found it useful to study the woman for her own sense of the character. In real life and in the show Brice was a woman who fought her way to fame with an irrepressible passion for song and performance.
“She pretty much won’t take no for an answer,” Davis said. “She’s driven, she’s flamboyant and she likes to get into people’s faces until she gets her way, but not in an obnoxious way.”
In this sense Davis is a kindred spirit: a young actress who’s done little else than perform from an early age. Davis caught the bug for singing at age 7. She wasn’t the first performer in her family — her uncles loved to sing as well — but her interest escalated beyond the level of hobby quickly. At the age of 14, she sang “It’s Raining Men” for the short-lived competition series “America’s Most Talented Kid,” a performance that ultimately went untelevised.
She performed frequently with Village’s KidStage as she added acting to her repertoire, and became a drama kid at Newport High School. By her junior year, Davis knew she wanted to make a go at acting professionally and dropped every other extracurricular but softball.
Davis was eventually accepted into the prestigious Boston Conservatory, where she picked up dancing — a bit later than most, she said — and completed her BFA in theater. During college she began traveling to New York City for work in concerts and readings of new musicals. Davis made a go at living in the Big Apple for five months before returning to Seattle.
“When you’re living in New York, you constantly have to travel just outside the city because the work is outside of New York most of the time,” she said. “Here it’s different because the theater companies work on seasons … you find out well in advance if you have a part. I found out I got this part last summer, so it was nice because I knew exactly what I would be doing a year from then.”
Davis was a perennial ensemble player in 5th Avenue and Village productions, and gained her first professional main cast role as Faith in the 2013 Village original “Trails.” But “Funny Girl” will be her most demanding role yet.
“Overwhelming is definitely the right word,” Davis said two weeks out from opening night. “It’s not overwhelming yet because we haven’t added sets and costumes to rehearsal. That’s when it will become overwhelming, because I’ll have to add in all the costume changes… and I’m in almost every scene of the show. I have one costume change in 15 seconds.
“The fact is, I don’t get to go to the dressing room at any point. I’ll be just off-stage, changing into my next outfit.”