It is such a marvelous thing to see a brilliantly talented African-American actress starring in a Broadway musical, especially when it is her Broadway debut. And that is what you will experience if you go to the Broadway Theatre and see “Sister Act,” starring Patina Miller as Deloris Van Cartier. She has a fantastic voice, unbridled energy and delivers the role with a passion that is infectious. Though this is her Broadway debut, Miller is no stranger to the role. In fact, she originated it in London’s West End theatre, where the show was performed from 2009 to 2011.
Miller recently sat down with the AmNews and talked about her role, the show and her background. The Q&A follows:
AmNews: Ms. Miller, how does it feel to star in “Sister Act” as Deloris Van Cartier, especially as it is your Broadway debut?
PM: I’m so proud, it seems like a dream come true, I’ve been having the time of my life.
AmNews: How did you get to originate the role at London’s West End and then bring it to Broadway?
PM: I was the understudy in a previous tryout in 2006. The director at the time told me to go to London to do the workshop of the show. I went for two weeks and haven’t looked back since.
AmNews: How do you keep up your energy when doing this show?
PM: It helps that you have a score that you really love. I love what I’m doing, I love being on stage and I waited so long to get an opportunity like this. I don’t know where my energy comes from, but as soon as I hit the stage, Deloris takes over. It helps that I work out regularly and train with a personal trainer. Doing it for two years in London got me prepared for a New York run.
AmNews: You’re portraying the role that Whoopi Goldberg portrayed in the movie, and she’s one of the show’s producers. What advice did she give you for this role?
PM: In 2009, she said, “Forget what I did, you have the opportunity to do something different for the stage. Go to London, be bold and have the time of your life.” She said to make it my own. I was so nervous when it started because it was this big movie, and Whoopi is Whoopi. She said I should bring my own experience to the role, and it’s been going great. Whoopi has been so amazing in talking me up, and she is the one I looked up to when I was young, so it’s been great to have her blessing through this entire thing.
AmNews: The cast works so well together. How did all of you come to have this amazing and amusing rapport?
PM: What you see on stage is exactly who we are offstage. These are people I would enjoy hanging out with. Everyone is so amazing, dedicated to the material and in love with what they do. Then, to see the audience’s response, makes us want to do better for the next show. It’s about spreading the love.
AmNews: What are the challenges in doing a well-known musical, where the storyline has been slightly changed and the songs that everyone knows from the musical have been completely altered?
PM: I think they have taken it in and they forget about it. All the people I met said they went in thinking, “I don’t know if I’m going to like it.” But they said they were immediately hooked. This show is about bringing joy to people’s lives, and that’s what I’m really proud of.
AmNews: This musical is such a joy to watch. How are you feeling when you’re performing?
PM: I enjoy doing it every single night, no matter how tired I get. I’ve grown with this character since playing it 2009 to 2011. I’m so fortunate and blessed to be starring in a show like this.
AmNews: You have a degree in musical theater from Carnegie Mellon University, but when did you first know you wanted to perform?
PM: My mom had me start singing in church when I was very young. Then I sang publically in seventh grade in a talent show. I went to a performing arts camp from ages 11-14. I fell in love with acting and singing. My mom sent me to a performing arts boarding show, the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities. From there, I got a full scholarship to Carnegie Mellon. Then everything started happening, I’ve been really blessed.
AmNews: Why should people come to see this show?
PM: I think people should come to see the show because it’s great entertainment. It’s fun, and it’s a great story. You get to see a show where we [the African-American community] are represented. We’re doing a great job and having a good time.