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Ken Davenport Talks About Getting The Band Back Together

By Gary Wien


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.

Ken's 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 bands.

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?
I think 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?
That 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?
Exactly.

Since word got out about the play, have people been coming up to you and telling their own band stories?
Oh, 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?
It's 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 thrill.

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 for you?
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?
Yes, 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.

I 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.

Final 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 their minds.



For more by this author, click here






Center Players Presents "The Emperor's New Duds"
(FREEHOLD, NJ) --  Center Players Dessert Theater will present a family-friendly production of “The Emperor’s New Duds” at Center Playhouse, 35 South St, in downtown Freehold, NJ from December 7 – 16. A musical adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s the “Emperor’s New Clothes,” the play was written by Bernice Garfield-Szita, who co-directed the production with Enid Bush.
Centenary Stage’s Young Performers Workshop presents 2018 Winter Festival of Shows
(HACKETTSTOWN, NJ) -- Based on the Gospel According to St. Matthew with music and new lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, Godspell is composed of various musical parables from The Gospel. Jesus Christ recruits a group of followers and teaches them various lessons through song and dance. Toward the end of the second act, the show begins to follow a more linear narrative as Jesus is betrayed by Judas and eventually crucified. Performances are Sunday, December 9 at 5:00pm; Saturday, December 15 at 8pm and Sunday, December 16 at 7:30pm.
The Shakespeare Theatre Presents "The Winter's Tale"
(MADISON, NJ) -- The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s concludes its 56th season with its sixth and final Main Stage production, The Winter's Tale. Last seen at The Shakespeare Theatre in 2008, Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte directs this production of Shakespeare’s tragicomedic romance. Veteran company members Jacqueline Antaramian, Jon Barker, Erin Partin, John Keabler, Raphael Nash Thompson,Seamus Mulcahy, Patrick Toon, and Ames Adamson are among a cast of 20 actors. Performances run from December 5 to December 30. 
American Theater Group Announces Full Cast & Creative For "Tell Them I'm Still Young"
(SOUTH ORANGE, NJ) -- American Theater Group has announced the full cast and creative team for its World Premiere production of Tell Them I’m Still Young, a new play by Julia Doolittle, which will run at the South Orange Performing Arts Center from January 24 - February 3, 2019. Joining the previously announced Andre Braugher (Homicide: Life on the Streets, Men of a Certain Age, Brooklyn Nine-Nine) andMichele Pawk (Hollywood Arms, Hairspray, Mamma Mia) are Janice Amaya (Seen/Unseen) and Seth Clayton (The Madrid).
Holmdel Theatre Company Presents 'ART'
(HOLMDEL, NJ) – The Holmdel Theatre Company (HTC) will present 6 performances of Yasmina Reza’s ‘ART’  from December 7th through December 16th. Translated from French by Christopher Hampton, the play tells the story of what happens when Serge buys an expensive painting, and the reactions of his two closest friends, Marc and Yvan, to his purchase. As what begins as a discussion about the quality of the painting that Serge has purchased quickly devolves into petty jabs and personal attacks, the three men border on destroying their friendships.


Broadway’s Mandy Gonzalez LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
Broadway is in the house at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center for the Arts with a Fearless live concert performance by Broadway star, Mandy Gonzalez!
"The Spitfire Grill" and Caitlin Geisser Return To Their Roots
“I saw something in her that you rarely come across,” recalled Ted Wioncek III, Artistic Director at Eagle Theatre in Hammonton. “She’s more than wise beyond her years; I believe she’s going to be a game-changer and a trendsetter for this art form.”
Broadway’s Next H!T Musical LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
It’s Friday, October 26, 2018, and the Broadway’s Next H!T Musical cast is just about ready to take the stage at the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts, located on the campus of Ocean County College in Toms River, NJ.
The Last Apple Pie: "Apples In Winter" Opens At Centenary Stage
Jennifer Fawcett’s new play centers around a mother in a kitchen, doing something countless people across America will take part in over the upcoming holiday season: making an apple pie.
See Andrea McArdle LIVE! in Annie at Deal Park’s Axelrod PAC!
Leapin’ Lizards! Annie’s finally made it to the Axelrod Performing Arts Center in Deal Park, NJ, and it stars Broadway’s original Annie, Andrea McArdle, as Miss Hannigan!










Event calendar
Saturday, Nov 17, 2018


MUSIC

THE GAY BLADES @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

HERMAN'S HERMITS STARRING PETER NOONE & THE BUCKINGHAMS @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 8:00pm

Nelson Riveros Trio: “The Latin Side of Wes Montgomery” @ Englewood Public Library, Englewood - 7:00pm

Hawaiian Music and Hula @ 1867 Sanctuary at Ewing, Ewing - 8:00pm

Pop 2000 Tour @ iPlay America, Freehold - 7:00pm

THE MACHINE PERFORMS PINK FLOYD @ The Strand Theater, Lakewood - 8:00pm

THE FAB FAUX A HARD DAY'S NIGHT AND REVOLVER IN THEIR ENTIRETIES @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 8:00pm

Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm

Swamp Boogie Trio @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:30pm







THEATRE

Annie @ Broad Street United Methodist Church, Burlington - 8:00pm

An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 3:00pm and 7:30pm

Annie @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Apples In Winter @ Centenary Stage Company - Kutz Theater of the Lackland Center, Hackettstown - 8:00pm

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 8:00pm

Billy Bishop Goes to War @ Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum, Morristown - 2:00pm

Kiss Me Kate @ Broadway Theatre of Pitman, Pitman - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Phoenix Productions Presents: The Hunchback of Notre Dame @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm

Enchanted April @ The Summit Playhouse, Summit - 8:00pm

Heathers, The Musical High School Edition @ Pebble Players, Oakes Center, Summit - 7:30pm

Junie B. Jones The Musical at Black Box PAC @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 11:00am

Into the Woods @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 8:00pm

The Drowsy Chaperone @ Lauren K. Woods Theatre at Monmouth University, West Long Branch - 8:00pm


COMEDY

Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm


DANCE

BALLET FOLKLORICO DE MEXICO @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm


KIDS

ROALD DAHL’S WILLY WONKA JR. @ Ridgewood Ave School Theater, Glen Ridge - 1:00pm and 7:00pm


LECTURE

Mainebiz Health Care Forum @ Mainebiz Health Care Forum, Newyork - 8:00pm

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