‘Once’ star Elizabeth A. Davis celebrates Tony nod

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NEW YORK (AP) - Elizabeth A. Davis is the kind of woman who sets goals, writes them down and puts them on the fridge. It just makes sense.

“People need to know where they’re going. If you don’t have a map and you’re driving a car, you’re going to end up who knows where. So I have a map,” says the actress and musician.

How’s the journey going these days?

“I’m getting good gas mileage,” she says with a laugh.

Davis is indeed. After years of toil in regional theater and off-Broadway, she made her Broadway debut in March in the hit musical “Once” and promptly earned her first Tony Award nomination.

“I’m incredibly honored and very thankful,” she says during an interview in her flower-filled dressing room at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre. “I will carry it as a banner for all of us and say, `This is a nod for us, for our ensemble.’”

The show earned 11 nominations, including the lead actors Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti. Davis, who plays a friend of Milioti’s character, was nominated for best performance by an actress in a featured role in a musical.

Next month, she’ll face-off against Jayne Houdyshell from “Follies,” Judy Kaye in “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” Jessie Mueller from “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever” and Da’Vine Joy Randolph in “Ghost the Musical.”

Davis admits to being very competitive, but she isn’t even thinking about winning the Tony. “I don’t know if I could handle it. Up to this point, I’m like up to here,” she says, patting the top of her head. “I’m like, `Guys, that’s enough for one year.’”

The musical is based on the film “Once,” which follows the love story of a Czech pianist and an Irish guitarist in Dublin. Made for about $150,000, the film earned $20 million, thanks in part to an original score that included the sublime, 2007 Oscar-winning song, “Falling Slowly.”

The 31-year-old Davis has been with the show since it was developed at the American Repertory Theater outside Boston in the spring of 2011. She originally auditioned to play the lead role of the Czech pianist but there was a snag: She only plays piano by ear.

But the actress had too many tricks up her sleeve: Besides singing, dancing and acting, she has played the violin since age 3 and the production was in desperate need of a fiddle player. It didn’t hurt that Davis looks like a model.

Davis was offered the role of Reza and she soon defined the part to suit her skills. Her Reza is now a whiskey-drinking Czech seductress who loves Irish soap operas and has some of the funniest lines. “I don’t have regrets. I can’t imagine a more perfect fit for me, personally,” she says.

Watching Davis onstage is like watching a whirling dervish. One minute she’s jumping up on a bar, the next she’s moving tables, dancing while playing the violin, doing the tango or swaying delicately to the choreography. She does it all in a short skirt and boots, with an athletic grace.

“It is physically demanding,” says the actress, who has sworn off alcohol and caffeine because they trigger migraines. “I’m being kept in shape by the show, I’ll tell you that much.”

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