Paige Davis on Bringing Character Dolly Levi to Life at PTC

Paige Davis as Dolly Levi in PTC’s “Hello, Dolly!” (Photo via

By Luke Jackson


Somehow, the passage of time has not been halted and the end of Pioneer Theatre Company’s ’21-’22 season is staring us in the face. The much anticipated conclusion “Hello, Dolly!” premiered on May 13. As such, I was given the express pleasure of speaking with Paige Davis who has taken on the seminal role of Dolly Levi in the production.

Dolly Levi is Who She is

The titular role of Dolly is one that has been played by some of the greatest actresses to ever grace the stage and screen. Carol Channing, Bernadette Peters and Barbra Streisand are only the beginning of the long, impressive list.

Davis, who is no stranger to the stage, bravely faces the role. “It’s daunting, yes, but it’s also very exciting,” she said. “While my performance is my own, Dolly is such an incredible spirit that she’s going to be who she is no matter what.”

Davis assures that she is working passionately to bring her rendition of Dolly to life. The key to this process is twofold, yet at its core, relatively simple. First, Davis sought the similarities. “Dolly is very smart and controlling, and a little meddlesome,” she said. “I’m always a little concerned with how meddling and controlling I am, so it’s nice to live out all my dreams and let that part of me come out in such a powerful way.” Second, she uses the wonderful tools provided to her by Michael Stewart‘s incredible script.

“I’m leaning into the clues in the script,” Davis said. “That is the key to Dolly, period. I’m simply using what’s in the script and trying to build her from the ground up. I think it’s the only way to do it. It’s so easy to get caught up in the iconic aspect of the character, so I’m trying to be as truthful as I can. If you get caught up, you’ll be bogged down, not free to celebrate who Dolly is.”

A Woman Rejoining the Human Race

While the iconic nature of the show and characters in “Hello, Dolly!” is exciting, Davis hopes that the audience will gain more than a nostalgic appreciation. 

“Dolly Levi is a woman rejoining the human race after the death of her husband,” she said. “Over the last two years, I feel like we’ve all sort of shut down in a way and we are all now starting to rejoin. I hope people will relate to Dolly but also think about their own resurgence.”

The Power of Theatre

This resurgence is the power that theatre has for a community. Theatre has the ability to bring a community together and inspire hope. Davis wants us here in Salt Lake City to know just how lucky we are to have establishments like the PTC still up and running. 

The truth is that the pandemic has been devastating to theaters. “Not every theater survived,” Davis said. “And it cannot be stated how incredible it was that this theater did. The leadership of Karen Azenberg and the undying efforts to keep theatre alive are nothing short of admirable.”

“Hello, Dolly!” opened May 13 at the PTC and is running until Friday, May 28. It’s a spectacle of hard work and passion. Davis was an absolute delight to speak with and I excitedly await the next rise of the curtain.


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