During a two-decade-long run as a professional actor, Elmira native Jay Davis has followed his passion for theatre across the country and internationally in London and New York performing in countless productions ranging from musicals, comedies, dramas and everything in between.From Dracula to Robin Hood to Rocky, in the Rocky Horror Picture Show, Davis is no stranger to playing the leading man.
Now, the Elmira District Secondary School alum is taking his talents to the east coast, with roles in a pair of Charlottetown Festival plays through the summer and fall.
“Both Bittergirl and Evangeline are part of the Charlottetown Festival Theatre season,” said Davis, on the line from Prince Edward Island. “The one that I am doing now is called Bittergirl and we just opened on Saturday and now we are into the run of it until September, when I will start rehearsals for Evangeline, which will be up at the Confederation Theatre, where as Bittergirl is playing at the MacK.”
In Bittergirl: The Musical, Davis plays the roles of three men, each the ex-lover of the titular trio of scorned women.
“It’s a musical about three women and they break up with their significant others and I play the role of their three exes,” Davis explained. “One of them was married with a child, another is engaged and the other one is just dating. So it basically follows their journey through the breakup process.”
But it’s not all heartbreak and sadness, it is a comedy after all.
“The three women end up meeting each other at a support group and become fast friends,” Davis said. “They end up going through different ways together to try to get over their break ups, and the situations end up being very comical. So in one case, they all get really drunk and they decide to go and key one of their exes’ cars. But it doesn’t go very well and they all end up in jail.”
Classic ’60s songs are also woven into the story.
“You have the story as well as the songs which sort of tell a story about what the characters are feeling and what they are going through,” Davis said. “It’s great, so you’ll see this really funny scene, and then they break into song about how they’re feeling, you know, betrayed, or whether they’re feeling like they are going to overcome the obstacle. So it has actually been getting received really well.”
After Bittergirl closes, Davis will be right back to work as the male hero in Evangeline, a Canadian historical musical written by acclaimed playwright Ted Dykstra.
“You’re lucky in this country to be involved in new Canadian pieces because they are not often written and not often on this massive scale,” Davis said. “It is such a Canadian story, it is about the deportation of the Acadian settlers from Halifax and that is a huge part of our history and something we shouldn’t forget. And with so many Acadians out here, still living here on the East Coast, I think it’s important to tell that story.”
Davis will play the role of Gabriel, a young man separated from his wife – Evangeline – on their wedding day by British soldiers carrying out the mass deportation of Acadians from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to Louisiana during the 19th century.
He’ll share the stage with Josée Boudreau – a woman with Acadian roots – in the titular role and a cast that includes Tony Award winner Brent Carver.
Director Bob Baker is excited to have Davis on board for the production, which will run in Charlottetown from mid-September through mid-October before moving across the country to Edmonton where it will run for the month of November.
“I am very excited to finally work with Jay,” Baker said. “He has just the right combination of strength, vulnerability, humour and passion to play Gabriel. He has a beautiful, rich singing voice and he and Josée will make a stunning couple.”
Davis’ passion for acting started at a young age and really blossomed during his high school years at EDSS, where he studied drama under his father, Gord Davis.
“I was really lucky and I know a lot of other people think the same thing about having my dad as a theatre teacher,” Davis said. “He was a really smart guy who was passionate about theatre. He instilled the love of theatre in many generations of students at EDSS, and I was lucky enough to be one of those.”
There were always three plays each school year, Davis recalls, and he’s proud to say he took part in 15 over his high school career.
In the years since, Davis has kept performing at a steady clip, always excited to embark on the artistic process of developing new characters and stories.