When the Phantom of the Opera invites you into his hideaway, you should be careful. As we all know, he has an unhealthy habit of kidnapping women to his lair behind the mirror and beyond the lake. But when he is without a mask Scott Davies, Stand-by for the role of the Phantom in London’s production, is a far better host. However he shares the charming side with his character. But while the Phantom is dangerous, dark and often brooding as well as angry, Scott seems to hold none of these characteristics. When talking about his role and life as musical actor, he is vivid, energetic and cheerful. The Scottish actor was born in Glasgow, where he was also trained at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. During his extraordinary career he appeared in both the West End as well as the UK Tour production of Phantom of the Opera and has played the role of the Phantom over 2.000 times. However he also appeared in other well-known musicals such as Cats (UK Tour as Gus, Bustopher Jones and Growltiger), Carousel (West End as Mr. Snow) and Chess (International Tour) and repeatedly stars in concerts in the UK as well as all over Europe.
Directly off his bike, from cycling into work in the hot London summer, Scott took his time meeting us and speaking about his work and continuous love for the show.
Lena Gronewold: Appearing now as Stand-by Phantom is not you first liaison with Phantom of the Opera. Earlier in your career you also appeared as Raoul. Which of the roles do you like more?
Scott Davies: When I first covered the Raoul, I never thought I could do the Phantom. I thought it was too much pressure. And so I did Raoul and I loved it. It was fantastic. Until I donned the mask and I never wanted to do Raoul again.
Lena Gronewold: I would agree with being #TeamPhantom…
Scott Davies: Oh yeah, it’s much more fun. The evil ones are fun. Raoul is just too nice. The Phantom just got everything in it. You’ve got the seductive side, the manic side, the childlike side and you’ve got to manage to marry all this parts, all this little sections together.
Lena Gronewold: When you can compare different Phantoms, they are so different.
Scott Davies: Yes, everybody can bring something different to it. And so it should be very different with each and every Phantom. You have set moves and points in the show, but how you get to these points is very individual and so it should be. Your Phantom should be your own unique version of the role.
Lena Gronewold: Yes, the show is really different every time you see it. Depending on the cast, the day, and even the audience.
Scott Davies: You never know how the audience reacts and that’s one point that makes every show so different, so unique. Last night they were very quiet during the show and you are not doing anything different than the other days, and there is no reaction. You are there thinking `What is happening here?` and then suddenly at the end they explode. And in other shows they clap for everything and when it comes to the curtain call there is just a polite clapping. They are probably already tired from clapping so much during the show but it’s really weird how this is changing from show to show. It also depends on which day of the week you are playing. Sometimes I find it on Saturday nights, they are the hardest to please. You just get the polite applause there very often, even though you gave everything.
Lena Gronewold: Phantom of the Opera is bringing masses to the theatres around the world since more than 30 years. Why do you think is the show so successful?
Scott Davies: The show is the star. We are the glitter, the show is the star.
Lena Gronewold: So you just let the show shine?
Scott Davies: You go along with it and do not try to work too hard at being the star. Everything from the direction, to the music down to the design, they just keep it the way people know it and like it became successful and that what makes a star. Sometimes there are people who think they are the star and not the show itself and they are so wrong. For example it’s said that Michael Crawford was shocked when he left the show carried on and was still successful. He couldn’t understand that. He thought the downfall would begin with him leaving but the show carried on. Everything in the show is just so brilliant that it goes on and on since 30 years. Every time when the candles go up I feel the magic the show possesses. I always hope the people really gather how beautiful this is and that they really enjoy that magic happening. Even just the music is really brilliant and I still love it. I love to hear the beginning of the show while my make-up gets done.
Lena Gronewold: Is the show different for you every time you are on? Does it depend on the audience?
Scott Davies: You try not to let your performance be influenced by what the audience wants and work harder every time you go onto the stage. You have to trust in what you do and trust into yourself. I have done it well over 2.000 times now, so I know the show.
Lena Gronewold: With that number of shows you probably know every word and step by heart?
Scott Davies: Well not the other night. I was standing there and thinking: “Owww…what am I singing here?” Some people think they need to work harder with every show they play, but you need to calm down. You need to have faith in the show, have faith in your performance, in your voice. If you start pushing and try to do something different, you lose it. And I think you very easily get lost in this `You must work harder` cycle and lose yourself over that.
Lena Gronewold: But probably it’s hard for people to trust into themselves.
Scott Davies: Oh god, yes. Absolutely. I think it’s incredibly hard to trust in yourself and have experience enough to think: `No, I know what I am doing and do it alright`. And most of the times 99 percent of the people will enjoy the show you give them.
Lena Gronewold: What is your favorite moment of the show?
Scott Davies: Final Lair. I love it! There is everything in that scene. Oh my god, really everything. There is true intimidation and then he snaps and breaks completely. You see, when he gets taken off his mask for the first time earlier in the show he shows rage, but some Phantoms already give everything they have in that scene and then there is nowhere where they can go with that in the Final Lair. I like to show a bit of rage there and then leave the rest for the Final Lair where you then can explode. That’s what I like to do. It’s a fantastic scene. It’s just brilliant. So much happens there between the Phantom and Christine, the hatred towards Raoul, it’s just…I love it. So much is happening and can happen. Just last night in that scene I said “Wait my dear, I think we’ve got a guest!” and then nothing happened. There was no Raoul, we had to improvise. He was there below stage and couldn’t open the trap door through which he normally appears. You never know what’s happening, everything is live theatre and that’s what makes it so much fun. When I was doing the tour of the show everything was computerized and then one night the show was going on but then the technique failed and I had to go on an empty stage. There was no throne, no organ, no candles, nothing. Just the Phantom and Christine on the empty stage. And then suddenly I saw the stage manager pushing things in from the side with an old broom. It was weird, but we had to go with it.
Lena Gronewold: I read that your dream career path was more Opera than musical. Do you enjoy it to be part of a musical that has so many similarities to the Opera?
Scott Davies: Yes, absolutely. We have a show were we sing properly. You have to have a good technique and work with your voice to do such a show every evening. Otherwise the show will find your pitfalls. And once this fear of not being able to sing the show grabbed you, you will never get rid of it again. It’s always in your thoughts and blocking you. You have a psychological barrier of “I-cant-do-this” and when you come back after taking time off and thinking you are fit once more, the barrier is still there. You need to pull yourself together otherwise you will never be able to sing that part again, just out of fear. The role does not allow hiding. From the first moment in the mirror you go straight into it and need to be there.
Lena Gronewold: What advices would you give a young aspiring singer who wants to become musical actor?
Scott Davies: If someone would ever ask me for advice, I would tell them to get a proper education and a degree before starting into the business. That way you have something to fall back on when times are not that rosy.
Lena Gronewold: With so many actors competing for the jobs and more and more coming into the market every year, it’s a hard business, right?
Scott Davies: This is a problem, isn’t it? You got all this schools opening up. When I was that age you got probably only seven or eight schools for our profession in London. There are so many these days, each of them producing 60 or 70 kids per year, who want to become musical actors. Where should work for all of them come from? Schools are popping up everywhere. And you don’t know how good they are. They probably all will have one or two students who have gone through that show and landed a job in the West End, but what about all the others? These who land the jobs are normally damn good but that’s not because of the school, but because they got talent. You can’t say it is a good school just because they have one star pupil. I often hear kids from these all these schools sing and think to myself `You won’t be singing in 20 years’ time if you carry up singing like that`. As a singer, unless you got a real secure technique where you can cross over, they are mucking up their voices. You need to train your voice all throughout your career so that you still can sing later on and that’s what young singers often don’t do. They think that once they made it to the West End they don’t have to work any longer. Even if they have a beautiful voice they often either don’t have the right technique or just stop working on themselves and lose their voice over this.
There are hundreds and thousands of kids coming into the theatre world in London each and every year and they all want to become stars. Normally there is like one in a million who is a real star. All others will have to work really, really hard to stay in the business and live their dream. It is continuous work to live that dream. You are not a star when you’ve done one show. Learn your things and then continue step by step. This way you will probably last and not end up as teacher at one of these schools.
Lena Gronewold: Have you ever wanted to be on stage or did you pursue another career path before joining Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama?
Scott Davies: I was ready to go study medicine. But I thought to myself: That is seven years of hard work. I didn’t know if I could study for such a long time. My father is a violinist and I went into musical college as a violinist and then I changed three months into my studies to first studying violinist and singing but then opted for singing only. But I was already prepared to do what I had to do to go into medicine but then music happened. I love music and never wanted to do anything else. I have been really lucky with it though. For all the years I have been in business, I only really had six months without a job. That tells me I have made the right decision.
Lena Gronewold: And know you are here being the Phantom, so you must have done it right.
Scott Davies: 14 years ago I swore never to do the Phantom again, because I’ve done so for four and a half years and thought that I couldn’t do it anymore. I left back then and after nine years Cameron (A.d.R. Mackintosh) called and said that they’d liked me to come back into the show, I said that if they wanted me to do the Phantom I’d prefer to do it as walk-in cover and they wanted it that way. I’ve done the show every evening for such a long time and apart from financial it’s not that important to me to do it every evening. I have my kids to watch growing up and like this I am there to see them grow. And that’s better than playing the show every evening.
Lena Gronewold: You played in shows like Cats, Carousel or Chess. Do you have a personal favorite among the shows you have been in expect from the Phantom of course?
Scott Davies: I did a show called “Pacific Overtures”, written by Sondheim and at first I hated it. I couldn’t understand what it was about, I was struggling in trying to find my character and once it was up and running I loved it. Such a clever show, I do love Sondheim. The problem with Sondheim is that his shows are so wordy. I loved it music wise. It has such beautiful music but lyric wise it was a swine to learn. I had that one song in which I really struggled with the lyrics. And I was writing a letter during that song and so I asked stage management for the lyrics to be written upon that paper. And then on my last day they changed that piece of paper for a blank one and I had not a clue what I was singing. I relied on that paper. And when I looked up I all of stage management standing in the wings laughing at me.
Lena Gronewold: The Phantom is probably a dream role but are there any other dream roles which you’d like to tick of your list in the future?
Scott Davies: That’s a difficult one. In musical theatre not really. The Phantom got everything I ever dreamed for. It has so many sides and I can put everything in it. But what I’d like to play is Don Jose in Carmen, an opera part. It’s a similar character; he is the romantic tenor but the complete maniac at the end. I want that switch in my roles. You don’t get that in many roles. What I could imagine doing is the part of Fred in Kiss me, Kate. I love that part. It’s in no way right for me, but I think he is a great fun part. It’s got everything in it. It’s brilliant. There are not many parts in musical theatre you can pour your soul into, that’s why I like doing Phantom and sticking with the show.
Lena Gronewold: If you are not wearing the Phantoms mask, what do you spent your time on?
Scott Davies: I do film sessions, I do concerts all over Europe. Recently I did a lot film sessions and voice overs. I never wanted to teach like a lot of my colleagues do, I have no patience for that. And I love cooking and to keep fit for the show, that’s how I relax from work.
Lena Gronewold: I imagine such a show keeps you fit.
Scott Davies: The fitter you are, the better you will manage to do the show. When I am fit I won’t sound during the Final Lair like I am taking my last breath. It makes if huge difference how fit you are. You struggle if you are not. You will get through it but you won’t be able to keep up for long.
Lena Gronewold: Being musical actor yourself do you still enjoy it to see other shows, musicals and plays?
Scott Davies: Very rarely. I am very critical, I think. I’d rather see a play. I normally won’t go and see a musical unless someone tells me to come along. I wouldn’t go on myself, than I’d rather see a play, an opera or a ballet. I am not crazy about seeing musical theatre. I don’t like that kind of musicals made up from some bands. I don’t enjoy that. There are some good musicals but I’d probably like to see things I don’t normally do.
Lena Gronewold: Crazy world: Imagine you could choose a woman’s role, which would it be?
Scott Davies: Oh my god, that is difficult. Which one would I do? Julie Jordan in Carousel. I love that part. I think it’s beautiful. If she is truthful at the end, she got the whole audience crying. If she does her job properly, she got the whole audience in her hand. I’d like to do that. You have to act that part really well to touch people.
Lena Gronewold: And for a last one back to Phantom: What is the difference in being the stand-by rather than the first cast? And do you enjoy “just” being the stand-by?
Scott Davies: I love it. As I said, I played the Phantom well over 2.000 times and I loved doing it for such a long time, but it is so life consuming. You spent your only day off on voice rest because otherwise you won’t be able to sing the next shows. And know with three kids, you can’t really keep quiet. Not doing the show every day gives me the opportunity to do other things like I did Tosca in January. That’s incredible. Oh! That’s another part I’d like to take: Scarpia in Tosca! He goes basically mad in the second act. Very charming, charismatic but basically goes bonkers. That’s one I’d like to do as well. But back to the original question: I do love it because the pressure of doing it all week is quite hard. There is no let up. If something is wrong with your voice, and you are off for a week, by Thursday you already feel the pressure that you must return to the show soon. And so as stand-by it’s a bit more relaxed and it suits me.
If you like to see a bit of Scott Davies Phantom we talked so much about, here you can see him perform Music of the Night together with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (www.bbc.co.uk).