Producer Jeff Davis from Sands Point is a bundle of energy, in his own words "going in a million directions." In a recent interview with the Port News, he was especially enthusiastic about Rock of Ages, the musical that he co-produced. Rock of Ages, which recently moved to Broadway, is a love story that celebrates the popular music of the '80s. The musical was well-received by critics and is loved, Davis said, by audience members "from 15 to 80." He told the story of asking a couple leaving the theater who looked to be in their 80s whether they had enjoyed the performance. She was noncommittal, but came back to another performance with 19 of her friends. Davis said that he goes to the show every night. "We are hands-on producers," he commented. He added, "I love to walk around the Times Square area to get that feeling of energy."
The word that Davis used most often to describe the musical was "fun." He said, "It is unbelievable fun. You forget the outside world. There is not one person who doesn't walk out of the theater smiling." He added that Rock of Ages is regularly compared to Mamma Mia. He said, "I hope that Rock of Ages will do for the '80s music what Mamma Mia did for ABBA."
Rock of Ages performances have become known for their audience participation, more like a rock concert than the typical Broadway show. Audience members stand up, cheer, sing along to the music, and sometimes even shout at the cast members over their dialogue. Ushers vend alcoholic beverages throughout the show. "We are the only show that has alcohol in the theater," said Davis.
Davis's co-producers include Carl Levin, Scott Prisand and Matthew Weaver. Levin and Weaver are Davis's partners in Corner Stone Entertainment, a film production company that has a number of films in the works. Davis said that Warner bought the film rights to Rock of Ages; he expects that the movie will be released sometime next year. The songs in the musical were selected from those that were popular in the "hair metal" '80s. The book is by Chris D'Arienzo, and the show is directed by Kristin Janggi and choreographed by Kelly Devine. The talented cast members include Mitchell Jarvis, Constantine Maroulis, Kelli Barrett, and Will Swenson. "But the star of the show," said Davis, "is the music."
Davis' involvement in Rock of Ages began when Carl Levin conceived a musical featuring '80s music and approached Davis through Weaver. Davis liked the CD and the script, and said he was convinced that they had a hit when his then college-aged sons heard the music and loved it. "Dad, this is what we play at frat parties," they told him. The musical premiered in Los Angeles at The Vanguard Hollywood in January 2006, where it played for six weeks. It then moved to Las Vegas, where it also had a limited engagement. Ironically, considering the show's current success, the initial readings in New York were not successful. "There were no takers," Davis said. "Nobody wanted to touch it. I don't know why; I think that the people in New York and Los Angeles have very different tastes." Davis and his partners decided to back the show anyway. It opened in New York on October of 2008 at New World Stages on West 50th Street. On March 17 of this year Rock of Ages previewed on Broadway at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre; the official opening night was April 7.
Davis was a studio musician, playing the electric organ in various rock bands in the '60s. Both of his sons are musicians as well. Adam, the younger, is a concert pianist and organist, and Josh is a concert cellist. Davis describes his sons, who are involved in some of their father's many businesses, as his best friends. He said, "Sometimes I fly to Florida just to give them a hug." In addition to a number of entertainment-based businesses, Davis owns and runs two web-hosting businesses, owns a jewelry store in South Beach, Miami, and who knows what else.
Davis has been involved in other Broadway hits, including Legally Blond, The Drowsy Chaperone, and A Catered Affair. Davis said that he first got involved a number of years ago when a friend approached him to invest in Chita Rivera's Dance of Life. He said, "This is where I first met Scott [Prisand], and we formed Cornerstone Entertainment."
Davis, a longtime Port Washington resident, lives in Sands Point with his wife Paula. It is a "mixed marriage"-she is an avid sailor and he likes his power boat. Paula has been in charge of running the Knickerbocker Cup for five years. (Davis assured us that the cup's long tradition will most likely continue at the Manhasset Bay Yacht Club.) She is also active in Hadassah, which they both support financially. He said that every two years they travel to Israel with about 600 Hadassah members. He looks forward to continuing his work making films with his partners at Cornerstone. He said, "We want to stay a small family company. We want to grow old together."
For more information, to hear samples of the music, and/or to order tickets, go to www.rockofagesmusical.com.