Patina Miller (right) says Goldberg has given her lots of advice
US actress and singer Patina Miller will star in Sister Act the Musical when it opens at The Palladium in London's West End in May this year.
The 24-year-old from South Carolina will play the lead role of Dolores in the stage version of the 1992 film which starred Whoopi Goldberg.
Miller talks about singing in Central Park, being funny, and the knack of dancing in a nun's habit.
Tell me about Sister Act the Musical
It's about a lounge singer, called Dolores, who witnesses a murder while working in her boyfriend's club, and has to go into protective custody in a convent.
She hides out there and while she's there she starts to get into these nuns' lives and they all start to change one another.
So basically, it's woman goes to convent, hides out, comes back, leaves again, and then finally... It all ends happily.
Did you have to audition for the part?
I have been involved with the show for a while now. There was a trial run of the show in Los Angeles three years ago, it was my first job right out of school, and I was the understudy for the lead.
Then last year I did a workshop about the musical in London - the director called me to do it - then I went home. They then auditioned a lot of people and I sat and waited. Then I had to audition again!
I bet you had your fingers crossed thinking 'please don't let anyone be better than me'!
Exactly! Then when they said they were auditioning in New York I thought: "Oh my God - there are tons of divas in New York, what's going to happen?' So when I finally got the part I couldn't believe it.
What was it like meeting Whoopi Goldberg?
Meeting her for the first time was one of those moments that is probably going to stick with me forever. I grew up watching Whoopi Goldberg, so I was so nervous but so excited when she walked into theatre that day. It's not everyday you get to meet an idol, someone you have looked up to for so long.
Did she give you any advice?
She did. She said just to do what I do, and don't try to recreate what she did in the film. She told me to make bold choices, be big, and trust myself.
And she of course she can't sing - unlike you.
And we talked about that. She said the show was a different experience for her because she's not a singer, so, for her, Dolores was a different character.
I am a singer, so my character Dolores is desperate for the limelight, she's desperate to be a star, but she's stuck in this lousy club with a boyfriend who treats her really badly, then she has to be put in a convent to hide from him when she should be a star. It's already a different thing.
Is that the only difference from the film?
The music is different, it's a disco score by Alan Menken, the action is set in 1972 instead of the 1990s and it's in Philadelphia instead of Las Vegas.
I think it works better on the stage. I think you get to be involved with these characters live on stage and see how things play out that way. It's so exciting. The theatre is so spontaneous anyway, you get to experience it in that moment and for me that's the most fun part.
What's it like dressing up like a nun?
I think the nun outfits are going to be pretty basic, but moving in a nun's outfit is a very different sort of thing and we have a lot of dance numbers - and a lot of funky dance numbers - and in habits that's not the easiest thing to do, but I think it's going to be really fun for people to see that.
How does one dance in a habit?
You have to watch yourself! That's why we practise in the habits, so we know what we're doing. They're BIG and I'm not used to wearing big clothing like that, and you have to be careful and not trip over.
Have you just taken the nun outfits from the Sound of Music, which ends its Palladium run next month?
Basically! (laughs) It's so funny that another nun show is moving right back into the Palladium.
But they're not the same costumes, right?
No! Oh no..
Why not? You could have saved some money in these credit-crunched times
I know but we have a lot of little surprises with these nun outfits. I can't give that away - you'll have to come and see the show. You won't be disappointed.
Mamma Mia!, Dirty Dancing and Hairspray have done so well in the West End. Do you think this the time of the feel-good musical?
Yes it is. Sister Act is a feel-good musical, but with an important message. It's fun, but it has a lot of heart to it too. It's going to be amazing. I know people are going to be dancing in the aisles they are going to feel good when they leave! It has an amazing set and the costumes are another thing. Thant's what I'm looking forward to. It's going to be really fun to get people to smile, dance and laugh. Hopefully! Maybe!
You've also appeared in Hair in New York. How do the two shows compare?
They don't. I love both of them dearly. Hair was show I felt like I needed to do at that time, and it was really important, and we got to do it in Central Park, so that was an amazing show. I got to open the show with the song Aquarius and that was amazing. I sang a lot of really nice songs, but doing Dolores in the West End, being in Sister Act, is just another thing. It's going to be amazing and it's a great opportunity for me.
What are your ambitions for the future?
I would love to do film further down the line, and maybe some TV. I like to think I'm kinda funny so I'd like to do some sit-coms... maybe. But I love theatre, it's where I started, and it's what I enjoy doing.
What do you love about the theatre?
People think it's all about being in the movies and that means you're a star, but really some of the best movie actors have come from the stage and that's where a lot of the training comes from. There is nothing like being in front of an audience and knowing what that feels like to have to carry a show and people watching what you do.
There aren't any takes, you only get one shot, and you get to try different things every night. It's an amazing feeling and I'm happy that there is somewhere I can do that.
Patina Miller was talking to Caroline Briggs.