Derrick Davis to Sing the Role of Coalhouse Walker in Ragtime

Derrick Davis

By Dawn Scotland
The Truth Reporter

“I would describe myself as a multifaceted storyteller,” said singer Derrick Davis.

From tv, to the opera stage, film, and recording – the lyric baritone from Long Island has done it all.

He has previously graced the opera stage in the acclaimed role of Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera and starred as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the musical I Dream, which he played for the first time at the Toledo Opera.

Now Davis is returning to the Toledo Opera to play the role of Coalhouse Walker Jr. in Toledo Opera’s Ragtime which will be opening April 19 at the Valentine Theatre.

“The majority of my career has been in musical theatre. I trained in opera; I grew up in the church. I was a youth pastor for quite some time. I’m also an educator: I teach privately and I also taught at Cincinnati Conservatory.”

“I just love the artform of storytelling — becoming characters, passing on stories and passing on truths,” stated Davis.

Davis is a first generation Panamanian American and was born and raised in Long Island, New York where his journey began.  “[Growing up] during the week was strictly schoolwork,” he reflected on his immigrant background, “but the weekends were marked very much by music.”

“On Saturdays my father would play the oldies and contemporary R&B and jazz, and we would clean the entire house. Then Sundays would roll around and the mornings were marked with gospel music. In the evenings, when we would come back it was classical music. And that’s where I started to find my love for obviously opera and classical repertoire but also for musical theatre.

“That music was just so complex in its orchestration that it just really held my attention. So, as I got older, I availed myself to music.” He studied musical theater in high school and then went on to study opera in college at Long Island University Post in New York where he traveled the world. “And then dove headfirst into the industry,” he recalled.

Davis’s impressive journey has taken him to stages across the country and internationally. In his exciting theater career, in addition to the roles mentioned,  he has sung the roles of Larry in Sondheim’s Company, Archibald Craven in The Secret Garden, and The Mufasa on the Gazelle Tour of Disney’s The Lion King. 

Regionally, Davis starred in Dallas Theater Center’s production of Dreamgirls as Curtis Taylor, Jr., Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Opera Carolina’s production of I Dream and King Triton in The Little Mermaid  at Theater Under the Stars.

He has been seen on The Hallmark Channel, the Daytime Emmy Awards, Live with Regis and Kelly, Dancing with the Stars, as well as on the big screen in such movies as “Can a Song Save Your Life” and “A Christmas Story.” His concert career includes a sold-out performance of Rogers and Hammerstein works with the Las Vegas Philharmonic, as well as several solo performances in New York City featuring his original works and holiday favorites. (

With Davis’s many successes and accomplishments one of the chief highlights of his career is the role he’s playing now: Coalhouse Porter Jr.

“I love him so much. He’s so complex and tells such a beautiful story of Black excellence marred with Black struggle.” The story of Ragtime centers on the complexity of life at the turn of the century for three different ethnic groups. The story depicts a centuries old mosaic of American life that strikingly echoes the struggles and divides of today.

“The way the country is right now, we’re so incredibly [and] unnecessarily divided,” he reflected on the unifying experience of performing theatre throughout the country, “We’re so much more united and so much more connected than a lot of media would like for us to think [we are].”

The story of Ragtime highlights the upper-class whites, the black Harlemites and the immigrant Jewish community and the social and economic turmoil that each group faces striving for the American Dream.

“Back in the mid-seventies when E.L. Doctorow was writing about how things were back then [in the 1910s] –we’re repeating it again today,” commented Davis. “I hope that it’s almost a shocking wake up call to the audience to do better as humans, to do better as Americans, to do better as citizens of this world.”

“And to just recognize,” he continued “how we’re all just fighting for the same things: for love, for peace, for a chance to live and for unity. And hopefully it will make a small notch in making America the beautiful place that it has the potential to be.”

While the show is presented by the Toledo Opera, Ragtime is in fact a musical. “It slants a little more classical in its expression but it’s a mixture of so many different influences [from the different ethnic groups]… and because it involves such a large orchestra and a large chorus and is of the golden age of musical theatre style an opera company can put it on be incredibly successful with it,” he explained.

Davis’s message to our community: “Come out and see it and bring your family! It will be a great conversation starter on so many different levels and it’s going to be wildly entertaining!”

You don’t want to miss Ragtime! Toledo Opera will perform Ragtime at the Valentine Theatre on Friday, April 19 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, April 21 at 2 p.m. To learn more about the upcoming shows or to buy tickets visit

To learn more about performer Derrick Davis visit or on social media.