The UK theatre industry is very fortunate to have such a high volume of insanely talented stage performers working in it, and our friends across the Atlantic are even more fortunate that we share a few of our stars with them from time to time. Ramin Karimloo is of course currently wowing US audiences as Jean Valjean in the Broadway production of Les Miserables, and Cynthia Erivo is soon to reprise her critically acclaimed role in The Color Purple there when the production transfers for a Broadway run. UK performers heading out to the US is nothing new, and while we are naturally always sad to lose them, we also wish them every chance of success in their journey. A former West End performer, Owain Rhys Davies, is living out in LA right now, but the In Profile spotlight still found him as he continues to build his career on US shores.
Born in Cardiff and raised in St Clears, Davies is another talented fish in the pond of Welsh actors who proudly represent their homeland on the West End stage. He was accepted into the esteemed Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts (LIPA) where he studied Acting for for three years. He graduated in 2003, joining the ranks of other LIPA students who have gone on to carve out a professional living in all areas of the theatre industry, such as Ghost The Musical star Andrew Langtree and former Associate Director of the Donmar Warehouse, Jamie Lloyd. He later attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, completing a Post Graduate Acting course there in 2009.
Davies’ first professional job was also his West End début. Right out of drama school he joined the 2003 cast of Mamma Mia! at the Prince Edward Theatre, understudying and playing the role of Pepper. He stayed in the company for one year, following that up with a stint at the National in the 2004 production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Olivier Theatre), as a Swing and playing the role of Protean.
He was involved in several theatrical productions outside of London after that. He returned to Wales to be a soloist in the televised Urdd Opening Concert at the Millennium Centre, moving on to add the roles of Tony in Abigail’s Party (Chapter Arts Centre), Motel/The Taylor in Fiddler on the Roof (Aberystwyth Arts Centre) and William Davison in a workshop of Mary Stuart (Chapter Arts Centre) to his growing CV. It continued to grow with further theatre roles, which included playing S.S Guard/Cover Izzy in Imagine This at the Theatre Royal Plymouth, Angel George in The Exquisite Corpse at The Millennium Centre, and Rev. Eli Jenkins/Mrs Dai Bread 1/Mr Pugh in the US Tour of Dylan Thomas Abridged.
In 2008, he appeared at Sherman Cymru, Wales to play Dave in An Epic Portrayal of Mundane Love, in addition to portraying various roles in a workshop of My People there. He then played Rod/Taxi Driver in a workshop of Good Arrows for ITV, and took to the stage of London’s Royal Festival Hall for Jude Kelly’s production of The Wizard of Oz, playing the role of Crow in a cast which also featured Sian Brooke (Dorothy Gale), Hilton McRae (Scarecrow), Adam Cooper (Tin Man), Gary Wilmot (Cowardly Lion), Julie Legrand (The Wicked Witch of the West) and Roy Hudd (The Wizard). He was then cast as Grumpskin the Dwarf in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe at the Royal Lyceum Theatre for the 2008/09 Christmas season.
Over the next year, he played Rhys in a workshop of Lywyth (Sherman Cymru), Jim/Edwin in The Gut Girls (Sherman Theatre), Cubby in Concrete Boots (Etcetera Theatre), Edward in Never, Fear, Love? (Wales Millennium Centre) and Tabaqui/The Jackal in The Jungle Book (Castle Theatre), which took him through into 2010. He then reprised his role as Cubby in Concrete Boots (Etcetera Theatre) for the 2010 Camden Fringe Festival, before going on to play Rex in Tidy (St. David’s Hall) and Bingo Reeves in a production of By Jeeves! at the Landor Theatre.
2011 saw Davies make his return to the West End in a big way after gaining a place in the original London company of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s revival of The Wizard of Oz. The musical classic opened at the London Palladium on 1st March 2011 (previews from 7th February) following the BBC’s reality television show, Over The Rainbow, in which Lloyd Webber searched for an unknown star to play Dorothy. The public vote saw Danielle Hope win the role and go on to star in the principal cast alongside Michael Crawford (The Wizard), Hannah Waddingham (The Wicked Witch of the West), Emily Tierney (Glinda), Paul Keating (Scarecrow), Edward Baker-Duly (Tin Man) and David Ganly (Cowardly Lion). Davies was a Swing in the show and understudied the role of Cowardly Lion, remaining with the production through its cast changes until the final performance on 2nd September 2012.
Davies can currently be found in the good ol’ US of A, having made the move to sunny LA just over a year ago. His last stage performance in the UK before the big move was as a guest vocalist in the line-up for the Christmas With The Stars concert, held on 15th December 2013 in aid of the charity Warm Hearts. He works extensively as a voice-over artist, having gained plenty of experience in that area of his career over the years through numerous TV and radio projects: one of his most notable voice-over credits is voicing the character Smiley in the computer game Nino Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. He is also booking commercials and was recently seen in Samuel Aaron Bennett’s short film, Baby, which starred actress Renee Felice Smith and premièred at the SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas.
Owain Rhys Davies has undertaken an exciting adventure that could lead him almost anywhere; his future is an open road. This talented actor has experienced many highs in his journey so far, and many more are sure to be waiting for him in the road ahead.
You can follow Owain on Twitter: @owainRdavies
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Saturday 28th March 2015