Davis Gaines discusses his upcoming benefit concert, saluting Carol Channing on her 90th birthday, and memories of Phantom of the Opera.
THEATERMANIA: Tell us about SOSMentor and how you got involved with the organization?
DAVIS GAINES: What the program does is that over a five-week period, one day a week after school, adult mentors meet with inner city high school kids, and we teach them about nutrition, exercise, basic food pyramids, how to read labels, things like that, which a lot of them have never been exposed to. It really changes the way they think and how their parents think, shop, and prepare food. And what's really great is then these kids mentor kids in elementary and middle schools. I started volunteering about three years ago; I love working with kids. And I always root for underdog kids -- I was really a shy kid myself, so I understand the need for encouragement and attention. Anyway, after my first few times as volunteer, I was asked to be on the board. This year, they asked me to be in charge of their fundraiser. It's the first big event for this organization and I'm thrilled to help.
DG: I am singing what I normally do in pubic concerts, which is a combination of show tunes, standards, songs from my CDs, and some funny stuff. I haven't done this kind of concert in LA in a long time, so it's a good chance to show people here what I can do. It's going to have an intimate feel even though we're in big house.
TM: What's it like to be asked to salute Carol Channing on her 90th birthday?
DG: I was so happy to get the call. Originally, it was just going to be a ladies' night -- JoAnne Worley, Carole Cook -- but they had a meeting and decided to add some men. I'm singing "It Only Takes a Moment" and I am also going to be in the opening number with Bruce Vilanch. Carol and I did a national tour of Hello, Dolly! together in the mid-1980s and it was one of the most fun highlights of my career. We've remained friends ever since, so to be able to sing that song for her birthday is really cool. She is remarkable. I did this big benefit with her in San Francisco not long ago, and she was so nervous about the audience. So I said to her, "Carol, all you have to do is walk out, say hello, and they'll love you." And she did -- and they did!
TM: Phantom of the Opera recently celebrated its 23rd anniversary on Broadway. What does the show mean to you and why do you think it's still so popular?
It opened so many doors for me. I recently auditioned for Love Never Dies and I met with Andrew Lloyd Webber for an hour and I thanked him for changing my life. As for its popularity, I think whether it's in New York or on tour, they keep it looking fresh and the people involved pay attention to the quality of the work. And I think that story is actually universal; everyone feels that sort of unrequited love the Phantom has for Christine at some point in their life.
TM: You haven't done a Broadway show since Phantom. Would you consider coming back to do one?
DG: I would do another Broadway run, but I don't know if I could live in New York full-time again. I love my house and the weather. It's just a very different lifestyle, and I think I'd miss it.
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