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Governor’s School grad wins starring role in stage musical

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by Ann Hicks, Greenville Online

bildeIt took a yearlong global search to find the new Deloris Van Cartier to fill the role made famous by comedienne Whoopi Goldberg in her 1992 blockbuster movie, “Sister Act.”

 Now, reincarnated as a new musical and co-produced by Goldberg, “Sister Act” is bound for glory with score by eight-time Oscar-winning composer Alan Menken and helmed by acclaimed director, Peter Schneider. “Sister Act, the Musical” opens June 2 at one of England’s best known West End venues, the London Palladium. 

 To no one’s surprise at the S.C. Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, that global search ended when Goldberg chose Patina Miller, the 24-year-old performer whose acting and vocal talents were incubated and nurtured at the Greenville-based institution. 

“I am proud to announce that we’ve finally found you an amazing girl to play Deloris,” Goldberg said of Miller. “It wasn’t easy, but we did it. And boy, can she sing, unlike some people we know – me.”

Standing on the balcony of her digs overlooking London, Miller says in a phone interview, “I can’t believe I’m here or that I’m singing songs created by Mr. Menken.”

Miller says her initial reaction to the news that she would be the star of the new musical was explosive.

“I screamed, I cried, I couldn’t stop pinching myself that I got what I always wanted, a once-in-a-lifetime role. I kept saying to myself, ‘oh God’; I just got the lead in a new West End musical. It doesn’t get any bigger than this.”

The media blitz – that included a stunt in which six nuns, clad in full habit, scaled and descended the face of the several-stories-high Palladium – is at fever pitch as London awaits the singing nun-sense, in which Miller will be joined with some of England’s best known award-winning stage actors.

Career wise, things have happened very quickly for her, says the Pageland native still somewhat incredulous yet ecstatic to be making her debut at one of the world’s great stages. Through its 80-year history the 2,400-seat Palladium has played host to some of the world’s mega entertainers including Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, Judy Garland and Marvin Gaye, and such hit shows as “The Sound of Music,” “The King and I” and “Saturday Night Fever.”

Miller is quick to credit the extensive professional training she received at the Governor’s School for making her career possible.

Recalling her Governor’s School days, the 2002 graduate says, “I always say they changed my life and changed my direction as to where I was headed. They helped me to make my dream of becoming an actress on Broadway and now at the West End a reality.”

It was through her mother’s encouragement that nine years ago Miller applied to the Governor’s School five-week summer program that placed her in the hands of professional acting teachers who spotted her talent and encouraged her to become a full-time student at the state’s nine-month residential arts school’s pre-professional program. “They prepped me for college and career,” Miller says. “I owe my teachers so much. I wouldn’t have gone to college, didn’t have the money, but the school helped me every step of the way. They’re amazing people.”

One of those teachers was Daniel Murray, a professional actor who chairs the school’s drama department.

Murray says, the school recruits highly talented students statewide and gives them professional-level training and character building. “They bring the raw talent,” Murray says, “and we shape, mold and polish it until they are ready to take it to the next level.”

Miller’s levels are nothing less than impressive. “This isn’t the way it usually works,” she says. “I didn’t have to wait for opportunities while I waitressed somewhere.”

A 2006 graduate of Carnegie Mellon University – where she received full scholarship – Miller moved to Los Angeles following her first professional audition and subsequent hire to be in the ensemble for “Sister Act” that played LA and Atlanta. While in LA she also appeared in ABC’s soap opera “All My Children.”

Miller’s career continued to flourish with her 2007 move to New York City where Broadway had a taste of her multi-facetted talent. She played the role of Dionne in the Public Theater’s much acclaimed 2008 summer revival of the 1967 rock-opera “Hair,” and sang the show’s iconic “Aquarius” at Central Park’s Delacorte Theatre. Miller also appeared in acclaimed American playwright John Patrick Shanley’s new musical comedy, “Romantic Poetry” at the Manhattan Theatre Club.

Asked what life in London was like Miller says while it took some getting used to living in another country she’s getting there.

“London is a huge city and a lot more difficult to get around in than New York City is, but what I concentrate on is how blessed I am to be here at a young age and can’t wait to see what else the future holds for me,” Miller says.

“In the mean time, I can’t wait to sing as a way of introducing myself to the London audience in a role written for a black woman. Talk about power, it’s amazing.”

Miller is quick to credit the extensive professional training she received at the Governor’s School for making her career possible.

Recalling her Governor’s School days, the 2002 graduate says, “I always say they changed my life and changed my direction as to where I was headed. They helped me to make my dream of becoming an actress on Broadway and now at the West End a reality.”

It was through her mother’s encouragement that nine years ago Miller applied to the Governor’s School five-week summer program that placed her in the hands of professional acting teachers who spotted her talent and encouraged her to become a full-time student at the state’s nine-month residential arts school’s pre-professional program. “They prepped me for college and career,” Miller says. “I owe my teachers so much. I wouldn’t have gone to college, didn’t have the money, but the school helped me every step of the way. They’re amazing people.”

One of those teachers was Daniel Murray, a professional actor who chairs the school’s drama department.

Murray says, the school recruits highly talented students statewide and gives them professional-level training and character building. “They bring the raw talent,” Murray says, “and we shape, mold and polish it until they are ready to take it to the next level.”

Miller’s levels are nothing less than impressive. “This isn’t the way it usually works,” she says. “I didn’t have to wait for opportunities while I waitressed somewhere.”

A 2006 graduate of Carnegie Mellon University – where she received full scholarship – Miller moved to Los Angeles following her first professional audition and subsequent hire to be in the ensemble for “Sister Act” that played LA and Atlanta. While in LA she also appeared in ABC’s soap opera “All My Children.”

Miller’s career continued to flourish with her 2007 move to New York City where Broadway had a taste of her multi-facetted talent. She played the role of Dionne in the Public Theater’s much acclaimed 2008 summer revival of the 1967 rock-opera “Hair,” and sang the show’s iconic “Aquarius” at Central Park’s Delacorte Theatre. Miller also appeared in acclaimed American playwright John Patrick Shanley’s new musical comedy, “Romantic Poetry” at the Manhattan Theatre Club.

Asked what life in London was like Miller says while it took some getting used to living in another country she’s getting there.

“London is a huge city and a lot more difficult to get around in than New York City is, but what I concentrate on is how blessed I am to be here at a young age and can’t wait to see what else the future holds for me,” Miller says.

“In the mean time, I can’t wait to sing as a way of introducing myself to the London audience in a role written for a black woman. Talk about power, it’s amazing.”

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Written by Symphony

May 25, 2009 at 5:20 pm

One Response

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  1. Keep working ,great job! This was what I needed to know.


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