DIVA TALK: Chats with Sister Act's Victoria Clark and Book of Mormon's Nikki M. James

Diva Talk   DIVA TALK: Chats with Sister Act's Victoria Clark and Book of Mormon's Nikki M. James
 
News, views and reviews about the multi-talented women of the musical theatre and the concert/cabaret stage.

Victoria Clark
Victoria Clark Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

VICTORIA CLARK
It was Danielle Thomas, Victoria Clark's manager, calling from California around 5 AM PT, who told Clark, who is best known for her Tony and Drama Desk Award-winning performance in Adam Guettel's The Light in the Piazza, that she had received a 2011 Tony Award nomination (Best Performance By an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical) for her work in the new Alan Menken-Glenn Slater-scored Sister Act.

"She congratulated me and she goes, 'Now I'm going back to sleep!'" Clark told me that May 3 morning, adding with a laugh, "Actually my son, who hasn't shown any interest in theatre in the last three years ... was like, 'What time do they announce the Tony Awards?' And I was shocked and said, 'What?' He goes, 'It's today, isn't it?' I was like, 'I don't know. I don't know. Let's not worry about it.' And he goes right over to the television set and turned it on, and it was just in time [to hear co-star] Patina Miller's [nomination]. I was so happy for her, but we thought we had missed my category, so we turned it off after a few minutes. So I really didn't know until Danielle called."

Clark in Sister Act.
photo by Joan Marcus

Clark, whose surprisingly touching journey as Mother Superior is one of the treats of the musical based on the film of the same name, said she was "delighted" when she heard the news. "I'm over the moon, and I'm so excited that we have five nominations. I'm thrilled for Patina. She is so spectacular in the show and carries the whole thing so gracefully, delighted for all of us. I mean, I wanted [director] Jerry [Zaks] to get a nomination because he is the mastermind behind the whole production in every single aspect, but it's hard for directors and choreographers because they don't split the categories between men and women."

Clark, who invests each character she portrays with a striking emotional honesty, said that the most challenging part of her latest Broadway outing "has been the time frame because I work so slowly. I work really kind of carefully and very detailed, so it was really fast for me, but the great thing is that there's a lot of room for growth and exploration — this character's very deep. Even though it's in a fun, comic show, there is a lot of room for digging. That's the good part... It's unusual to have a character with that kind of depth in a musical, so I'm delighted."

And, what's been the most exciting aspect of this production? "Working with Jerry Zaks again has been. Also, there are 30 people in the cast, and I had never worked with any of them before — so that was thrilling. Making all these new friends and a new family, it's exciting!" [The Broadway Theatre is located at 1681 Broadway. For tickets phone (212) 239-6200, or visit Telecharge.com. Visit SisterActtheMusical.]

Nikki M. James
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

NIKKI M. JAMES
Nikki M. James, who plays the role of Nabalungi in the much-acclaimed new musical Book of Mormon at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre, said she was too nervous the morning Tony nominations were announced to listen to the news herself. "My best friend, Tommar Wilson, who is also in the show with me — he's in the ensemble, and we made our Broadway debut together in 2001 doing The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which did not get 14 Tony nominations... called me first thing," James told me later that morning. "It was 8:49 when he called. That's how I found out [I was nominated in the Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical Tony category]. I started jumping up and down!

"First I screeched, and then I cried a little, honestly," she added. "I feel really blessed and grateful, and totally, totally, stupidly excited. This is the most exciting thing that has happened to me in a long time or possibly ever. This is everything I've ever worked for and thought about and dreamed about when I was a little girl. I've seen every single Tony Awards that's been aired since I was able to know about it. I've never been, so this is a good reason to go for my first time. I'm really excited about that."

James in The Book of Mormon
photo by Joan Marcus

James, whose late father was her most ardent supporter, explained that "today is actually the 12-year-anniversary of his passing, so I'm sure he might have something to do with it. It's pretty bittersweet, [but] it's pretty awesome."

When asked what has been the most exciting aspect of this Mormon ride, James, who stops the show nightly with her Act I ballad "Sal Tlay Ka Siti," answered, "I think just doing an all-new musical that is groundbreaking and traditional all at the same time and having people react to it in such an amazingly, overwhelming, positive way is sort of every performer's dream. Doing work that you're proud of in a show that you're proud to be a part of is pretty much the perfect [experience], so I feel like I am on cloud nine."

[For tickets, $59-$137, phone (212) 239-6200 or visit Telecharge. The Eugene O'Neill Theatre is located at 230 West 49th Street.] Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching! E-mail questions or comments to agans@playbill.com.

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