It was nine years ago this week that I caught up with the ever-smiling actor John Davidson while he was in Chicago on the Broadway national tour for the 10th soap opera “Guiding Light.” Zimmer is a favorite talent I bump into often every summer when I’m up north in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where she usually returns annually to perform at The Barn Theater in neighboring Augusta.
Last month, Zimmer played madcap “biggest fan” Annie Wilkes at The Barn Theater in a series of “Misery,” based on the Stephen King novel.
Both Zimmer’s and Davidson’s names came up last week during my weekly arts and culture radio show, Of Notoriety, which I host at WJOB in Hammond, when my guest was Broadway actor John Bolton, whose name and face also comes from his Role in “All My Children.”
Bolton is vacationing in Chicago as part of the national Broadway tour of Wicked, which is playing now through December 4 at the James M. Nederlander Theater at 24 W. Randolph St. in the heart of the downtown theater district and presented by Broadway in Chicago.
Bolton is familiar with the downtown Chicago scenery during the holidays.
In the fall of 2011, I interviewed him while he was preparing and refining the role of the “old man,” aka Ralphie’s father, in the pre-Broadway Chicago series of “A Christmas Story, The Musical!”. which premiered at the Chicago Theater. Of course, this stage story adaptation was created from the writings of Hammond’s radio and writer-humourist Jean Shepherd.
But since March, the affable Bolton has been hilarious as “the man behind the curtain,” enchanting audiences alongside Jennafer Newberry as Glinda, the good witch of the north and her green opponent Elphaba, who is destined to transform into the evil witch of the West, played so convincingly by Lissa deGuzman.
Tickets for Wicked, which is now the fifth longest-running show in Broadway history, seen by 60 million people around the world and grossing more than $5 billion at the international box office, range from $59 to $199 available at www.BroadwayInChicago.com, www.WickedTheMusical.com or 800-775-2000.
“We can travel across the country and play in these beautiful old roadhouses, but Chicago’s James M. Nederlander Theater is truly one of the crowning jewels for stages across the country,” Bolton said during our radio chat.
“It’s so beautiful architecture.”
Bolton said the list of actors who wore the now signature Wizard of Oz waistcoat and top hat in “Wicked” reads “like a who’s who” of all his favorite stage heroes, starting with Joel Gray, who brought the role to life called Broadway.
“I’m so glad to call John Davidson a friend, too,” Bolton said.
“He’s such a true and versatile talent and a nice guy.”
When I last spoke to Davidson, now 80, almost a decade ago, he was with his wife, Rhonda Rivera, on Wicked’s national tour.
Both Bolton and Davidson agree that in addition to the entertaining backstory that tells the origins of every character Dorothy meets in the Land of Oz, Wicked is also packed with important lessons relevant to all ages about themes of acceptance, trust and friendship.
Prior to his role as a magician, Davidson’s career spanned not only Broadway and the Broadway and Branson stages, but also films and particularly television, the latter tenure often including hosting shows such as ABC’s That’s Incredible! and the syndicated game show Hollywood Squares.
In 1990, Davidson and his wife Rhonda shared co-hosting duties and filmed with Dinah Shore and Florence Henderson for the kitchen series Holiday Gourmet on TNN aka The Nashville Network. While he admitted that his wife is mostly in charge of her own home cooking, Davidson has a favorite dessert recipe that he told me came from his own mother’s kitchen file. Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he was the third of four boys born to Elizabeth and Allie Davidson, both ordained Baptist ministers.
The couple, who have now been married for 38 years, also credit this easy and deliciously “wicked” and decadent turtle brownie recipe as their daughter Ashley’s favorite recipe. Since the recipe is made with fudge, it’s perfect for Halloween. John also has two children, John Jr. and a daughter Jennifer, from his first marriage to Jackie Miller.
Columnist Philip Potempa has published four cookbooks and is director of marketing at Theater at the Center. He can be reached at [email protected] or email your questions to: From the Farm, PO Box 68, San Pierre, IN 46374.
Makes 16 brownie bars
1 pack (14 ounces) caramels
2/3 cup condensed milk, shared use
1 box (18 ounces) German Chocolate Cake Mix
3/4 cup softened butter
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
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12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1. Combine caramels and 1/3 cup condensed milk on a double boiler and stir the mixture until combined.
2. In a bowl, mix the cake mix with the remaining milk and softened butter to form a batter until held together but still crumbly, add nuts.
3. Press half of the batter mixture into a greased 9″ x 13″ cake pan and bake at 350 degrees for 6 minutes.
4. Remove pan from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over warm surface, then pour melted caramel mixture as next layer.
5. Sprinkle the remaining crumbly batter mixture over the caramel layer and return to the 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.
6. Remove from the oven and cool slightly before cutting into bars.