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Local dance teacher recalls time on Broadway

Springfield man once worked with Debby Boone on musical.

Springfielders will get a chance to see Debby Boone on Saturday when the singer brings a big band swing show to Kuss Auditorium.

Springfield’s Scot Davidge, on the other hand, already saw her recently — over dinner.

And, it wouldn’t be surprising if they met for dinner again.

The two were part of the original Broadway cast of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” back in 1982, and the cast last fall reunited in Hollywood to dine and reminisce after realizing it had been 30 years since the show.

“The fun part was seeing Debby, of course,” Davidge said.

Davidge retreated to Springfield in 1985, sensing it would be a good place to raise a son, after more than a decade of nonstop national touring in such musicals as “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Cabaret” and “West Side Story.”

At the time, he was dating a woman from the area and was familiar with the region thanks to his work with Ohio’s Kenley Players.

Founder and artistic director of the Ohio Performing Arts Institute, whose annual community production of “The Nutcracker” is coming up on its 24th year, he never looked back.

But, with Boone set to appear in Springfield this weekend, Davidge decided it’d be fun to at least look back at the time he played Broadway with her.

“We were so different,” Davidge, now 64, recalled. “I’m a street kid from Los Angeles, and she comes from Pat Boone. We were like water and oil for a while.”

The show marked Boone’s Broadway debut, and it’s almost an understatement to say she was a big star at the time.

“She’d already made $4.5 million off ‘You Light Up My Life’ when I met her in ‘79, ‘80,” Davidge said.

Her biggest hit stayed atop the charts for 10 weeks in 1977, and it won her the Grammy for best new artist.

“Little girls would faint in the elevator if they were next to her,” Davidge remembered.

With Boone starring as Milly and Davidge as Benjamin — one of the backwoods brothers who all decide to get hitched after the eldest brings home a wife — “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” had never before been on Broadway. Its origins were as a 1954 MGM film during the golden age of movie musicals.

The stage production starring Boone originated in 1981 in Ohio as a touring Kenley production, playing Columbus, Dayton and other area cities, before a national tour.

Davidge predicted big things for “Seven Brides.”

“Every single performance we played, we got a standing ovation,” Davidge said.

“And then,” he added, “we closed after three weeks in New York.”

A review in the New York Times by critic Frank Rich, who called it a bomb, pretty much sunk the show.

“In the Jane Powell role,” Rich wrote in 1982, “Miss Boone sings ably and smiles constantly — in the remote, rigidly ungiving manner of a veteran professional gladhander or beauty-pageant contestant.”

“She’s perfect for the part,” Davidge said. “How wrong he was.”

In the years since, Davidge and Boone have reconnected on and off.

She went on to hawk facelifts on TV in recent years and Davidge has been dealing the past few years with throat cancer and other ailments likely inflicted by exposure to Agent Orange during his time in Vietnam with the Marines.

“I’m at my dancer’s weight again,” he said with a smile.

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