A Sister Act That is Hard to Top
Washington, DC was honored to have Patina Miller, this year’s Tony Award-winning Best Lead Actress in a Musical (for her role as the Leading Player in Pippin), performing her first concert of her illustrious career last night at The Kennedy Center. The concert was part of the Kennedy Center’s Barbara Cook’s Spotlight Series. Patina has already had huge success on Broadway and in the West End in Sister Act, for which she also received a Tony Award nomination, as well as her current award-winning run in Pippin. Washington audiences had previously seen Miller in the acclaimed Kennedy Center production of First You Dream.
Miller was unabashedly thrilled to be able to perform a concert in which she said, “I could be myself rather than perform as a character in a show.” She chose as the focus of her show songs that had a huge impact on her life thus far, a journey that took her from Pageland, South Carolina to Broadway. While her concert may not always have been as slick and polished as some more seasoned cabaret performances, Patina’s humility, charm, enthusiasm and amazing singing voice made it a unqualified delightful evening for her many fans in the audience.
The evening began with a jazzy version of Kander and Ebb’s “Sing Happy” (from their show, Flora the Red Menace). In honor of her favorite film of her youth, Beaches, Miller sang a stirring version of “Glory of Love” and after sharing how her musical performance at the age of 12 was in the show Annie, she followed up with Miss Hannigan’s funny but biting “Little Girls.” Later noting that her first performance after college was an African American review of Sondheim songs, Miller performed a stylized version of “No One is Alone” from Into the Woods. It was apparent from the get-go that she has an incredible singing range that allows her to sing all types of music.
The show really took off when she relayed her experiences coming to New York and getting her first gig in the Public Theater’s esteemed production of Hair in Central Park. Her powerful take on “Easy to be Hard” was a highlight of the evening. Miller went on to describe how her first real big break came when she was offered the role of Deloris Van Cartier in the stage musical production of Sister Act. Already a huge fan of the movie, Miller explained how she got into the show based on an impromptu audition performance of Denise Williams’ “Let’s Hear it for the Boy.” As a nod to the film version, Miller treated the audience to two versions of one of the film’s songs, “My Guy” and as the nuns sang it in the movie, “My God.” Then she treated the audience to songs from the stage musical: the title song as well as the toe-tapping “Fabulous Baby.”
She finished with songs from her current show and this year’s Tony Award-winning Best Revival of a Musical – Pippin, including “Magic to Do” and “Simple Joys.” The audiences clamored for encores and received two- “Miss Celie’s Blues” (from The Color Purple) and the iconic “New York, New York,” the latter of which Miller appeared to be learning on the spot, yet did a real bang up job with it.
Miller was accompanied by a terrific group of musicians. On piano was Musical Director James Sampliner. John Benthal added the sultry sounds of his guitar along with Mark Vanderpool on bass, and Rich Mercurio on drums.
We are thrilled that Patina. Miller took a night off from Pippin to give Washington one fabulous evening. There was a lot of magic on the Terrace Theater stage!
Running Time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.
Barbara Cook’s Spotlight: Patina Miller was performed for one-night-only on Friday, December 6, 2013 at The Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater – 2700 F Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For future events, check their calendar of events.