Hello, Paige Davis! How the “Trading Spaces” host and pitcher came to Utah for “Hello, Dolly!”

She hosted nearly 250 episodes of “Trading Spaces”. She performed on Broadway. But when she’s in Utah, Paige Davis is most often approached by people who want to talk about furniture.

“They all want to tell me what they bought at RC Willey,” she laughed, “which is awesome. I love it. Nobody stops. It’s awesome.

Davis appeared in RC Willey commercials from 2008 to 2018. “It’s quite a long time,” she said. “That’s how most people in Utah learned my name and who I am. So I don’t really see that going away.

Few Utahns approach him to talk about his vast background in musical theater. And she acknowledges locals might be surprised to learn she’s the headliner Pioneer Theater CompanyThe production of “Hello, Dolly!” — which runs May 13-28 at the Pioneer Memorial Theater on the University of Utah campus.

“I definitely don’t want people to think their upholstery rep is going to be leading this massive musical,” Davis said. “They should know that I am very trained. My whole life has been musical theatre, and dancing was my first passion and my number one love, long before I did Trading Spaces. Certainly long before I represented RC Willey.

It was her husband’s idea

Davis has never starred in ‘Hello, Dolly’ before, but her husband – actor Patrick Page – suggested she give it a try after playing “another Jerry Herman diva” in ‘Mame’ a few years ago. years.

(Page spent six seasons with the Utah Shakespeare Festival, where, in addition to acting, he was the director of development. He also starred in several PTC productions. And Paige is Davis’s middle name, so his middle name. full bride is Mindy Paige Davis Page.)

“Hello Dolly!” – which won 10 Tonys, including Best Musical, in 1964, and four more for the 2017 revival – adapts Thornton Wilder’s play ‘The Matchmaker’, the story of Dolly Levi, a recently widowed matchmaker who surrenders in Yonkers, New York, at the beginning of the last century to find a wife for the miserly Horace Vandergelder. She watches him for herself and acts as a matchmaker for several other people she encounters during her efforts to land Horace.

In addition to the title track, the show features more than a dozen songs by Jerry Herman, including “It Takes a Woman”, “Before the Parade Passes By”, and “The Waiters’ Gallop”.

According to Davis, her husband said, “’You should play Dolly. You are her. That’s what you do. You also came back to life several times. And he was really right about that. I recover a lot. Which parallels the story of Dolly Levi’s character.

“I really know what it means to rebuild and remake, to join the living,” Davis said. “Come back from hurt, come back from pain, come back from disappointment, come back from betrayal. You know, start over. And remember that life is joyful, and then be ready to claim it.

That’s what her husband thought when he suggested she would be suitable for the role. Page asked his manager to contact the Pioneer Theater on Davis’ behalf “to see if they thought it would be a good fit and if they were interested”.

After “a very long conversation via Zoom” with PTC Artistic Director Karen Azenberg, they decided there was mutual interest. What was Davis’ first reaction when he was offered the role?

“Terror!” she said bursting out laughing. “I was, like – I talked about a really good game and now I really have to do it.”

Non-traditional casting?

Davis said she didn’t think she was a “traditional cast” for the role of middle-aged widow Dolly Levi, who most identifies with two very different actresses – Carol Channing and Barbra Streisand.

Channing originated the role written on Broadway in 1964 at the age of 43 and starred in several revivals, most recently in 1995 at the age of 74. Streisand was just 26 when she made the film, which was released in 1969.

“It’s a very important role. It’s a huge responsibility,” said Davis, 52. “It’s a big musical with big numbers. And we have to encourage Dolly. We want Dolly to join the human race.

(Pioneer Theater Company) Kris Coleman as Horace Vandergelder and Paige Davis as Dolly Levi in ​​the Pioneer Theater Company’s production of “Hello, Dolly!”

Theater-goers quickly learn just how much Dolly missed through the reactions of the other characters.

“A big part of how you know someone is a king is because you see other people bowing,” Davis said. “You realize that the impact Dolly has had on their lives is proportional to the level of happiness she is filled with upon her return. … We see through everyone’s eyes the impact of her leaving what it did, it left a hole.

But his return is joyful.

“Oh, that’s great fun,” Davis said. “I mean, the best thing in the world is going to happen – everyone’s going to end up happy. I mean, spoiler alert! Everyone ends up happy, and that’s wonderful.

Broadway Dreams and Reality TV

Growing up, Davis dreamed of performing in Broadway musicals. And she went to Broadway, performing in revivals of “Chicago” and “Boeing-Boeing” farce, and touring companies of “Sweet Charity” and “Chicago.”

She met her husband when they were both in the “Beauty and the Beast” touring company – he was Lumière and she was Babette, the feather duster.

“Broadway has always been my number one goal,” Davis said. “I realized that before I even did ‘Trading Spaces.’ It has always been my passion.

But she’s well aware that, at least outside of the areas that saw her in RC Willey’s commercials, she’s best known as the host of one of the original home improvement/renovation shows. She was the ever-perky host who retained a sense of optimism about the neighbors who were each redoing a room in the other neighbors’ house. With the help of designers. In just 48 hours.

It was a job she never imagined she would do and at which she turned out to be very good. Davis clearly had a natural ability, but she credits her theatrical training.

“You have to be in the moment,” she said. “There is no script. They don’t tell you, ‘OK, now you’re going to say this.’ We have to deal with what is happening. You have to follow your impulses. It means being funny, not being afraid to make a fool of yourself, not taking yourself too seriously. And I think those are the same qualities that make a good actress.

(Trae Patton | TLC) Host Paige Davis and carpenter Ty Pennington discuss a project for the revival of home improvement show “Trading Spaces.”

And the skills she learned as a host “absolutely” helped her as an actress – teaching her how to deal with the unexpected and the spontaneous. “It just gave me a lot more confidence,” Davis said. “I was lucky to be part of something that was very successful. … It said to my brain, ‘Oh – you’re actually pretty good. You are cool. You haven’t ruined a whole project because of your existence on planet Earth. When you have trust issues, that was like a really big thing for me to learn at 34. …

“It was really, really reassuring. It was just a great lesson to learn.

keep everyone happy

Davis said she takes her job as a host “very seriously, and I really enjoyed getting to know the neighbors. I wanted them to have a good experience, not just on camera, but also off camera. … Making sure no one gets grumpy, because it’s really, really, really long hours and really, really, really hard manual labor. ‘Trading Spaces’ was really, really hard.

She wasn’t the one doing most of the work – which fell to neighbors and designers – but she was the one who was with the owners when the pieces were unveiled. And not all owners were happy with the results.

“But there’s not a single person who didn’t love their room on ‘Trading Spaces’ who didn’t love the ‘Trading Spaces’ experience,” she said. “Well, actually, there’s one who didn’t.”

It would be a landlady in a 2003 episode who hated brown and wasn’t happy to find out her room had been painted in – you guessed it – brown. The woman actually attacked her neighbor, shouting, “I hate the brunette,” and never spoke to her again.

And there was ‘the most infamous revelation ever’ – when ‘Crying Pam’ collapsed when she saw her beloved fireplace had been covered. She continued to cry even when told that the blanket could be removed.

“And I asked her husband, ‘Are you sad or disappointed that you did this? ‘” Davis said. “And he said, ‘Oh no. I would do this last 10 minutes again, just to get the two days we just had.

Hello Paige!

Davis said the timing “couldn’t be better” for the production of “Hello, Dolly!”

“I think we all need something to feel good about right now,” she said. “I mean, I definitely wouldn’t wish for a pandemic the next time I do Dolly, but I think audience members are going to line up with her. We can all relate to this now on a very palpable level.

“It will always be a musical. It’s always going to be fun. It will always be all of those things. But I think people might get away with going, ‘Wow! I didn’t know I liked “Hello, Dolly” so much!”

Dolly, back in her place

The production of “Hello, Dolly!” from the Pioneer Theater Company, starring Paige Davis – Broadway actress, longtime “Trading Spaces” host and former RC Willey pitchwoman – as Dolly Levi.

When • Opening on Friday 13 May. Evening performances will be on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Monday and Thursday weeknights at 7 p.m. until May 28, with matinees on Saturdays at 2 p.m.

Or • Simmons Pioneer Memorial Theatre, 300 S. 1400 East on the University of Utah campus.

Tickets • $48 – $72 in advance; $5 extra on the day of the show. Available at the box office, by calling 801-581-6962, or online at pioneertheatre.org.

special casting • Five familiar Utah faces, all non-actors, have been cast as the judge in this production: Martell Teasleyacting provost of the University of Utah (May 12-14); Dr Angela Dunnexecutive director of the Salt Lake County Health Department (May 16-18); Delay Babs, activist and real estate agent (May 19-21); Utah State Senator Luz Escamille (May 23-25); and Fox13 reporter Ben Winslow (May 26-28).

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Garland K. Long