Frenchie Davis Soars In The View UpStairs

Davis as Henrietta in The View UpStairs. Photo courtesy of Kurt Sneddon

To get to know Frenchie Davis, we have to start where most of us intersect with singers – that voice.

For most of the world, we were introduced to Davis in the second season of American Idol. Hearing that voice was like having a religious experience.

There is a misconception with someone who has a talent and voice so big. That it is all just organic, God-given like there is no work involved, no suffering.

I think Frenchie Davis has put to rest the idea that all you need to make it in show business is talent. No ma’am. You need steel, muscle, God, buddha, all the deities and some luck to survive.

But thank God she has, because we get to see Ms. Davis belt it out in The View UpStairs until May 21st at the Lynn Redgrave Theater.

The View UpStairs is a brilliant and sobering new musical that looks at where the LGBTQ was and is today. The book, music and lyrics were written by Max Vernon, and the musical stars Jeremy Pope, Taylor Frey, Nathan Lee Graham, Benjamin Howes, Michael Longoria, Ben Mayne, Randy Redd, Nancy Ticotin, and Richard E Waits.

Davis plays Henri, a fierce lesbian and owner of a local dive in New Orleans. She is the mother hen of a group of hilarious characters in the bar. Make no mistake though the musical has serious and sometimes heartbreaking moments. For Davis working on the project was a chance to showcase two of her loves at once.

“When I read the script I was really fascinated with the story,” Davis said over the phone recently, “and I was blown away that so few people know that this happened.”

“Outside of my love of performing, I love history. It’s not often that we get to tell these kinds of stories in our art.”

The theater experience during The View UpStairs is what many would call immersive, with tables right on stage for the audience to view the action close-up and almost be participants. This created a unique challenge for Davis.

“It’s definitely scary,” Davis said. “In a less immersive theater experience, you have this set to block out the fact that there;s an audience. It’s like don’t fuck up, they’re going to see it.”

The musical, which makes fun of some of the challenges of modern LGBTQ life, allow shines a light of issues facing the community and within it.

“What I love about this piece is that it’s exploring how far we’ve come and areas where we still have a lot of work to do,” Davis said. “As an openly bisexual black woman. I have a unique focal point and site line of the areas where we all need to do better.”

“I can’t tell you how many time’s I have to correct biphobic statements from my gay friends and how many time I have to check my black friends on homo, bi, and transphobic comments.”

Davis definitely reminds us of why we loved her for so long. Her voice is in perfect form and recalls the greats like Franklin, and Knight while keeping it contemporary like Jill Scott. All this is not to say that her voice is not her own. Trust it is. And she earned it. To think there was once a time when singing may not have been her career path.

“I was an English major,” Davis recalled. “I thought I would be an attorney and break some necks on Capitol Hill.”

Thankfully a wise professor nudged her into a musical theater major and she has been performing ever since.

And yes we remember the drama surrounding American Idol, but Davis is over it all and we should be as well.

“I had to bust my ass,” Davis said regarding eeking out a career after American Idol. “It took about a decade not to be Frenchie Davis, comma.”

“I got into this business because I love painting colors with my voice. It is that genuine love for it that helped me make peace with all of the stuff that came along with it.”

We are just happy Frenchie is still on that stage slaying the kids nightly. We love you Frenchie. PERIOD.

For tickets to The View UpStairs click here.


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