by Marialena Rago
“As a performer, I am thrilled that the opportunities for Broadway actors of color to tell stories that reflect our full humanity are becoming more expansive and abundant."
That was Tyrone Davis Jr.’s reaction when his show Waitress had women of color in starring roles as the three waitresses - Jordin Sparks as Jenna, Jessie Hooker-Bailey as Dawn and NaTasha Yvette Williams as Becky. Davis, who says it is an exciting time for actors on Broadway, is an ensemble member and understudies Ogie at the diner.
Davis acknowledges that on stage isn’t the only place that needs to work on diversifying.
“Our next frontier(s) on Broadway is to diversify writers, directors, producers, casting, agents & managers, critics, and audiences,” he says. “These are the industries that have profound influential power when it comes to social change and thought. If these industries are willing to recognize the full humanity of folks of color and other marginalized populations, it can be a real pathway to reconciling our ugly past and present. It is a pathway to social change. I thank everyone at Waitress for being on that pathway and allowing that night to happen. I hope for more nights like this on Broadway at-large!”
Davis is originally from Miami, Florida and says he got his start in the arts largely due to the song “Hot Cross Buns.” If you played the recorder in elementary school, you know the tune.
“It was the first time I ever made music and experienced the artistic process - being faced with a seemingly impossible task, messing around and trying to figure it out, practicing it endlessly until I actually figured it out, and then eventually playing it flawlessly, and with freedom.”
Now, two years into his Broadway debut, Davis still gets emotional about being on Broadway. He has been a working actor in off-Broadway productions and on tour in Shrek the Musical, but he nearly missed the call that got him to the Great White Way.
“It was around 9 am. I was half-awake, on the uptown A train from Brooklyn. I saw that I had a missed call and voicemail from my wonderful agents, which is a little unusual since they don't open until 10 am. I knew it had to be something good. I immediately got off of the train at the next stop, which was West 4th and hurriedly called them back on the side of the street... the rest is Waitress history!”
Broadway is everything Davis hoped it would be and more. He and his Waitress castmates laugh together, look at memes together and just enjoy each other’s company.
“It's hard to put into words, but there is something so special about being on Broadway,” he says. “I feel it getting off of the train in Midtown and walking through the Theater District to get to my theater - the Brooks Atkinson. Seeing all of the glowing marquees; seeing the audience members lined up along the sidewalks to enter their theaters… getting to places; greeting the rest of the cast; and then watching the curtain rise on an excited audience sitting in a beautiful 93-year-old theater. It all feels very special.”
Unfortunately, the diner closes its doors in January 2020, but Davis already has his eye on a current Broadway show. “I just saw Slave Play last week. I was blown away. Definitely a dream project. I would make coffee runs for that show if they needed.”