Growing up in a musical family in Conyers, GA, Cecily Dionne Davis fell in love with performing at an early age. Her mom was an orchestra director, so she studied violin at 3, and is also trained on the viola, cello and bass. She also was in the church choir for most of her life.

Davis went out for her first theater audition, for The Wizard of Oz, at age 6—though it didn’t turn out the way she hoped.

“I had dragged along my two brothers, who are three years older than me, and they ended up getting cast in the production instead of me,” she shares. “I had to go to all the rehearsals, so I was always there, to the point that the director asked, ‘Why aren’t you in this?’ and I told him, ‘Y’all didn’t cast me!” 


But because she was diligent and knew all the material, she was added to the cast and hasn’t looked back since.

“It taught me to never give up and keep working hard and you might be successful,” Davis says. “I did my first professional play at the Porter Sanford Center when I was 12, and then went to Heritage School of Performing Arts.” After that, Davis attended Howard University, where she was named Howard’s 84th Miss Howard University, not knowing that royal title would come into play for her first tour a year later.

The first professional show Davis ever saw live on stage was Charlotte’s Web at the Fox Theatre at age 6, and she’s seen countless shows there, most recently Wicked, last summer.


Now, she’s returning to the Atlanta theatre as a performer for the first time, in the role of Princess Fiona in the Tony Award-winning duo Jeanine Tesori and David Lindsay-Abaire’s updated Broadway musical, Shrek, the Musical.

“It feels so surreal,” Davis says. “To have my friends and family to come out and celebrate me and support me in my own city is just a blessing. I’m so happy.”

And by doing so, Davis is the first-ever Black actress to don Fiona’s tiara in any professional production of the show. “It’s a great feeling,” she says. “We just opened in Nebraska and in the front row, I saw three little Black girls in their tiaras and it almost made me cry. Growing up, as a Black girl myself, we didn’t see ourselves in princess roles. It was always the snippy sidekick. So, having the opportunity to lead a musical in a role that is representing royalty is just indescribable. I always aim to be someone that others look up to, and getting the chance to bring this character to life in a new and different lens is amazing.”


Her favorite scene in the show is when she sings, “I Think I Got You Beat” opposite Shrek (Nicholas Hambruch), and the two characters get lots of laughs with their stories of who had the worst childhood. It also includes burps and farts, but Davis doesn’t get embarrassed, because it’s the chance again to see a princess in a different light.

“It allows us to see the human side of a princess,” she says. Davis first auditioned for Shrek last July after graduating from college, but it was for the role of Dragon. When she didn’t hear back, she thought that ship had sailed, but she saw online they were still looking for some of the principal roles. She sent an email and was asked to submit again, and this time got a call back—but for Fiona.

Shrek the Musical is based on DreamWorks’ blockbuster animated film, and it’s one that Davis knew well from her childhood.

“My parents bought the two-pack with Shrek and Shrek 2, and I watched it so many times, the DVD stopped working,” she says. “I am such a huge fan because it tells a story that is so layered. It’s about knowing who you are and that you are deserving of love, community and family.”

Speaking of community and family, while she’s home in Atlanta, Davis is going to take her castmates to the famous American Deli, where she’ll order its signature 10-piece hot wings with lemon pepper, though she is even more excited about seeing her family and having a home-cooked meal.