Friday, Jan. 11, 2013
Neon lights are bright on Broadway for two Johnson County women
By RUTH BAUM BIGUS
Special to The Star
Dancing on Broadway — it’s nice work, if you can get it. Two young women from Johnson County have done just that in the same show.
Kaitlyn Davidson, a graduate of Blue Valley High School, and Kaitlin Mesh, a Shawnee Mission Northwest grad, are now appearing in “Nice Work If you Can Get It,” a Broadway musical running at the Imperial Theatre. The women are among the ladies’ ensemble in the show, which stars Matthew Broderick and Kelli O’Hara.
The women were hired as swings — performers who fill in for players who are absent. That means Davidson and Mesh had to learn all the choreography, songs and lines for all six women’s roles in the ensemble and be prepared to go on at a moment’s notice.
Davidson, 26, made her Broadway debut as a member of the cast with the show’s preview performances last spring. She also serves as the assistant dance captain. Mesh went on stage in the show for the first time earlier this week. It’s her third Broadway production.
“Nice Work” is a musical comedy featuring the songs of Gershwin. The story takes place in the Roaring Twenties as friends gather in New York City to celebrate the wedding of a wealthy playboy. Plans change as a female bootlegger enters the picture and steals the playboy’s heart.
“It’s such a fun show, it’s light and entertaining,” Davidson said. “I love Gershwin music and this is a brand new Gershwin musical. And the cast and crew — everyone from the top down is so nice.”
The pair took slightly different routes to become part of this cast.
Davidson, who also graduated from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, auditioned for this show just before Thanksgiving 2011.
“I auditioned on a Saturday, which is not normal,” she said. “I had a really great audition, and then I left. I got a call from my agent that callbacks were on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and I had a flight to come home.”
Davidson scrambled to change flights and went to the callback, which included Broadway director and choreographer Kathleen Marshall.
“It was six girls. We sang and read for the creative team. Then we did a dance combination and that was it,” Davidson said.
She waited on pins and needles as casting was postponed for two days.
“The waiting was hard,” Davidson said. “I got the call when I was on the subway coming home from dance class,” she said. “First my agent told me, ‘They’re not going with you,’ then after a pause he told me they were hiring me.”
Mesh, who turns 24 on Jan. 16, had gone through the original auditions for the show “but I shot myself in the foot with my singing audition,” she said. Mesh had worked with director Marshall in “Anything Goes,” so when this production needed a new swing, Mesh got the call. Mesh attended a special replacement audition before Thanksgiving.
“I wanted to make up for what I did before,” she said with a laugh.
A few weeks before Christmas, Mesh got the call that she’d been cast in “Nice Work.”
“I was really lucky,” Mesh said. “Most casting and hiring is slow. It was nice to have an early Christmas present.”
Mesh said the experience is exciting as her first appearance on the Great White Way.
“This is my first time performing as a swing and it’s a brand new experience ... but I’m looking forward to the challenge,” Mesh said. “It’s a completely different beast when you’re actually thrown on before the lights and with costumes.”
Each woman has created a moniker for herself, since each can play any one of six characters. Davison chose “Gloria.”
“It was my late grandmother’s name. She was always so supportive of me.”
For Mesh, it’s Geraldine.
“I’m Gerry from Jersey,” said Mesh, putting on her best East Coast accent.
Both women post messages on Facebook with the names to alert family and friends when they’re going on in the show.
Mesh said this marks the first time she and Davidson have worked together since their dance school days and years at Theatre in the Park.
“I got to learn the show from Kaitlyn, so it was nice ... and then we’d get reminiscing about Miller Marley (dance school),” Mesh said.
“I’m so proud of both of them,” said Brian McGinness, school director at Miller Marley School of Dance & Voice, where both women studied.
McGinness has watched from afar as his former students have excelled professionally.
“They we’re both good about their studying.... Kaitlyn Davidson has always been so driven. I had no doubt she would get her Broadway break,” McGinness said. “Kaitlin Mesh was more of a surprise but she learned enough ballet that she has solid technique and it’s carried her far.”
No closing date has been set for “Nice Work,” and the women hope they are in for a long ride together.
“She’s great. She’s such a hard worker, said Davidson of Mesh. “She’s amazing.”
“I hope this won’t be the last time we get to work together,” Mesh said.