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    Sunday, June 16, 2024

    Groton girl, 10, sings her way into traveling Broadway show

    Groton — Iris Davies has been singing for as long as she could speak, her mom said.

    From singing in youth church performances to the Ledyard Christian Musical Theater group, she's always found opportunities to belt out her surprisingly strong voice, her parents, Jody and Mike Davies, said.

    That voice has landed her a role as Brigitta Von Trapp in a touring Broadway production of "The Sound of Music" directed by Jack O'Brien.

    Iris's break came when she began working with her sister Alex Davies, who produces videos and original songs to raise awareness about human trafficking.

    Alex would highlight Iris's voice and harmonize with her in duets, said mother Jody Davies.

    Those music videos captured the attention of Laura Luc, the director of a children's theater company in New York, who asked Iris and Alex to perform in "Lyrics for Life," a music and dance production to benefit the The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and introduced her to the New York musical scene.

    "She had such a great ear and ... is extremely expressive," said Bob Reel, the head singing consultant of the Christian talent agency Actors, Models and Talent for Christ.

    "It's something you can't really coach with kids," he added.

    Iris was "always on pitch," especially when she gave a memorable performance of "Amazing Grace" during her audition.

    Luc invited Iris to perform for an off-Broadway production of "Annie" — eventually leading to a nerve-wracking auction for a role in "The Sound of Music."

    "I do get nervous at auditions ... It's weird, I get more nervous with a small crowd," Iris said.

    When she first auditioned in front of Tony Award-winning director O'Brien for the role, she thought he looked angry because of his glaring stare — even after he began clapping and she got the role.

    "He's super sweet, he's like the nicest guy ever ... I didn't know (at the time), but apparently it was good," she said.

    For the past month, she's performed eight times a week across Detroit, Denver and Chicago, accompanied by her mother.

    They had just two weeks to learn the show alongside the seasoned actors who stayed on from the Broadway production before they began their debut in Detroit.

    Half of their eight-hour days are spent rehearsing and in shows while the other half is spent in a home-school setting with the rest of the cast, who hail from New York, Kentucky and Florida.

    Iris is the only Connecticut cast member.

    For now she is back on break for a few weeks before flying out again to California and Las Vegas.

    On Thursday she was in her dad's sandwich shop, Press On Sandwich Crafters in North Stonington, looking forward to going to see Fourth of July fireworks and practicing her skills with her RipStik — a wheeled board similar to a skateboard that she used to go back and forth to shows in Chicago.

    During her performances, Iris's favorite scenes are the ones where she gets to belt out songs and move around, such as during the song "The Lonely Goatherd," when all the children jump on the bed, or when she and Gretl Von Trapp (Audrey Bennett) have to do cartwheels.

    "They actually had oxygen backstage in Denver," mom Jody Davies said, "In case they got out of breath."

    Despite the thin air due to its altitude, Denver was Iris's favorite stop on the tour so far.

    "It was so fun, and I found a bunch of quartz when I went hiking," she said.

    Her career aspiration is to play Elphaba, the wicked witch from the musical "Wicked," first played by her theater hero, Idina Menzel, who is best known for playing Queen Elsa in Disney's "Frozen."

    "As far as theater stars and Broadway stars, she's my favorite," Iris said.


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