Jenks graduate Cody Davis brings Broadway experience back home with ‘Mary Poppins’
Cody Davis came to the realization in his early years at Jenks High School that he wanted to pursue a career in musical theatre.
Since he came to that decision, Davis has taken a unique path that has led him across the country and to the center of the musical theatre world, New York City.
Davis is spending the summer in his hometown of Tulsa performing the role of “Bert” in “Mary Poppins” put on by Craft Productions.
The 2007 Jenks High School graduate described the role as “the narrator” of the show.
Davis shines in the part and has also excelled in his role as “the narrator” in his own life to see his dreams come true.
The Jenks High School vocal music department is one of the top music programs in the state. During his time at Jenks, Davis starred in “Grease” as a freshman, “Seussical the Musical” as a sophomore, “The Boyfriend” as a junior and “Oklahoma” as a senior.
“I loved how the vocal music program was its own department, but almost everyone that was in the program could be involved in other things,” Davis said. “I felt like that allowed everyone to have the full high school experience and not just focus on musical theatre all the time.”
Following his freshman year in high school, Davis attended a musical theatre camp in Florida put on by Ann Reinking, where he said he got his first taste of what his future was going to be in the industry.
“I was around other people that were really good,” Davis said. “I realized then that I needed to take this seriously. I learned how to take the next steps to pursuing a career in musical theatre.”
Davis attended the camp the summer after his sophomore year as well. He then auditioned and was cast in the production of “Beauty and the Beast” put on by Theatre Arts in Tulsa. That is where Davis met Wayne Bryan, who would help take Davis’ career to the next level.
Bryan ran the Musical Theatre Wichita and liked what he saw out of Davis. After Davis auditioned, Bryan brought him to Wichita the summer after his junior year and gave the high school teenager his first professional job in the industry.
“It was a big stepping-stone for me,” Davis said. “It was my first professional experience and it was great. Senior year, I mainly auditioned for different schools, but decided on Michigan University. It was always my top choice. It has one of the best musical theatre departments in the country. They only take 10 boys and 10 girls in every class, so I was fortunate to get into that program.”
Davis added the full college experience was important to him when he was deciding where to attend school.
“It had a family atmosphere to it, but it was a big school, which is what I wanted coming from Jenks,” he said. “I wanted to be able to go to football games and have and enjoy a campus life.”
Davis came back to Wichita every summer in his college years and continued to work on his craft, as he prepared for his next big jump.
He graduated from Michigan University in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in musical theatre. Davis hired an agent in May of 2011 and spent one more summer working at Musical Theatre Wichita before making the move to New York City in August, where started the “grind” of auditioning.
“It was tough starting out,” Davis said. “Going through the grind is fun, but stressful. You are going to auditions every day of the week, taking numerous classes trying to improve and learn. They don’t know you yet and that takes a lot of time. One thing I learned right off the bat is that everyone’s path is different. I had to accept the fact that my path was my own. It’s not like working in a corporation and working your way up. You would get a job and then once the job is over, you are back to square one and being unemployed.”
Davis’ first break came in 2012 when he was cast in “Dames At Sea” in Annapolis, Maryland throughout the summer months. He then got on with the “White Christmas” national tour in 2013 and was able to perform in Tulsa and Oklahoma City along the way.
In 2014, he auditioned for “Oklahoma” and got the part and then was also cast in “Fiddler On the Roof”. Both those shows were done in Pennsylvania. While performing in “Fiddler On the Roof”, Davis received the call he had been waiting for since he dreamt of a career in musical theatre.
He was on his way to Broadway to join the cast of “Cinderella”.
“It was a dream come true,” Davis said. “I debuted on July 22, 2014 and my whole family was there and like 30 of my friends came. It was pretty special.”
“Cinderella” was open on Broadway for eight months from July 2014 to January 2015.
“It was an amazing experience, but a stressful one,” Davis said. “We were constantly at rehearsal or at a show. We would start rehearsals around 11 in the morning and then go until the show was over at 11 that night Tuesday through Sunday.”
Following his stint on Broadway, Davis was cast in “Lady Be Good” in New York City before joining the national tour of “Cinderella”, where he was able to perform in Tulsa and Oklahoma City again in front of family and friends.
Davis performed in 300 shows on the 13-month tour.
The Tulsa native said being able to perform in Mary Poppins has been fun and wants to see musical theatre in Tulsa grow.
“The cast is made up of all Tulsa-area people, which is really cool,” Davis said.
When asked what advice he would give a young person coming into the early years of high school or even at the middle school level that has interest in musical theatre, Davis said “I would tell them to learn as much as you can about the industry, learn as many shows as you can, do as many things as possible, not just musical theatre. Become as worldly as you can and experience as many things as you can. Figure out what you do well and work hard at it. Be confident of who you are, if you want it, you’ll find a way to make it work.”
Davis said Jenks High School helped prepare him for the next steps in life.
“Jenks gave me a really good balance,” he said. “Mr. (Larry) Downey and Mrs. (Julie) Hester treated us like professionals in vocal music. They had high expectations for us and held us to a high standard. Jenks is truly an incredible community to grow up in and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
There are four remaining performances of Mary Poppins before the show closes for the summer. The first is at 7:30 p.m. tonight, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. All the performances are at the Tulsa Community College VanTrease PACE, 10300 E. 81st St. in Tulsa.
To purchase tickets, go to www.craftproductions.com or call Craft Productions at 918-998-3376.