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High Five

John Davidson’s inspiration

Joan Marcus

If you pay some attention to the man behind the curtain in the current national touring production of “Wicked,” which runs through Sept. 15 at the Opera House, you might recognize the familiar dimples of John Davidson. The West Bridgewater-bred actor-singer-host — who’s appeared everywhere from Broadway to the big screen to “That’s Incredible!” — is having a ball playing the Wizard in the colorful musical.

Davidson says he sported a Boston accent until eighth grade and a move to White Plains, N.Y. He raised his hand in class when the teacher was handing out grades and asked, “What’s my mahk?” And, he says, “All the girls laughed at me and so the next day I changed my accent and that’s why I don’t talk like Jay Leno today.”

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We chatted with Davidson about five people who inspired him along the way.

1. Walt Disney “He was an amazing man, the most charming and humble man I ever met. He said, ‘You can’t just dream; dream big and then wake up and get it done.’ ”

2. Bob Hope “I did two of his specials and was in a musical with him. He took me under his wing a little bit. It’s not every comedian who looks out for a relatively unknown kid. He was such a positive spirit and a very hard worker.”

3. Bert Lahr “People know him as the Cowardly Lion in ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ but in my first Broadway show, ‘Foxy,’ I played Bert’s son. I watched him in awe because no two shows were the same. He was so intense and funny onstage, but when he came offstage he was the most miserable man I ever met. That showed me you can be very unhappy offstage but go onstage and shine.”

4. Lucille Ball “I never met such a strong woman. She knew exactly what was right for her. She knew about directing, lighting, sound, stagecraft, and performance more than any person I’ve ever known.”

5. Johnny Carson “I subbed for Carson more than any other singer, 80 different nights. Carson was a very shy gentleman. Yes, he wanted to get his laughs but he shared the stage. He made opportunities for tons of other young performers.”

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