PLAYBILL.COM'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Gospel Star (and Show Tune Fan) Sandi Patty

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Gospel Star (and Show Tune Fan) Sandi Patty
 
Sandi Patty has sold 11 million albums (give or take a few) of gospel music. Her love of show tunes has finally surfaced, on a new disc called "Broadway Stories."

Sandi Patty
Sandi Patty

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Patty, who will play Dolly Levi in a semi-staged concert of Hello, Dolly! with the Indianapolis Symphony in January 2012, said that she has loved theatre songs since she was a kid. And she's been singing show tunes in pops concerts for years. On the new album, which was released Oct. 18, she collected her favorites — everything from hits from The Sound of Music to songs usually sung by leading men.

Is there more show music in her future? Has she been offered musicals? Is Broadway a goal? The Christian-pop star known for her soaring soprano and her gutsy belt explains it all.

I'm really enjoying your album. It's so full of the joy and light that you always bring to your stuff. You recorded one of my favorite Christmas albums — "The Gift Goes On."
Sandi Patty: "The Gift Goes On." That was the very, very first one I ever did.

Yeah, '91. A friend gave it to me years ago, and I honestly didn't know who Sandi Patty was at the time. It's so full of joy. I remember thinking, "Why isn't this lady singing show music?"
SP: [Laughs.] Well, I've always loved show music. I grew up loving it. It seemed like a good time to do [it] this year. Tell me about your relationship to theatre music. You listened to cast albums as a kid, I read somewhere.
SP: I did. You know, I was that kid with the hairbrush as a microphone in my bedroom with the turntable, and listening to cast recordings. In fact, my two younger brothers and I, we would often do these little pantomime shows to Music Man or Fiddler on the Roof [albums], and we charged my parents 25 cents to come see our show in the living room, and we would just kind of pantomime these shows. A lot of the great roles were men roles then, so I found myself having to be the crowd quite often, but I learned some wonderful music. My brothers and I, we saw our first [musical] when they made The Music Man into a movie — and I just was crazy about it. I loved the fact that you could tell stories through music. It was just amazing.

The Sound of Music is a huge early show for all of us, because we were exposed to that movie. Did you see the movie as a kid?
SP: I did see the movie as a kid, and just was mesmerized from the moment Julie Andrews stepped over those mountains. I was mesmerized by the music, by her, by the story. It was just incredible. In fact, just this morning I was able to go over to the Rodgers & Hammerstein office, and you just felt like you walked into some history, and they gave me a beautiful commemorative anniversary book that has pictures that weren't in the original film cut, and some back-story and things. That was pretty cool. I haven't had a chance to dissect that yet, but I can't wait.

Julie Andrews in "The Sound of Music."
20th Century Fox

How did this new "Broadway Stories" album come about? Whose idea was it?
SP: It's a childhood dream come true, for sure. But, about ten years ago, I started working with the Indianapolis Symphony. I was living in Indiana at the time, that was kind of where we raised our kids, and I started doing a Christmas show. It was a month-long run in Indianapolis called A Yuletide Celebration, and I worked with Ty Johnson and Jack Everly, who was the conductor, and that show was just everything you wish a Christmas show would be — a cast, everything is live, costumes, dancing, little vignettes, just amazing. And, as I got to know them better and better over the years — I've done it about five times now over the last ten years — I shared dreams here and there. And they started writing a show for me called A Sandi Patty Broadway. They invited me back this coming January to do a concert version of Hello, Dolly!, and Gary Beach is coming to play Horace Vandergelder, and I'm getting to play Dolly Levi, and I'm just so excited about that. It seems like everything came together to say, "You know what? This is time for this childhood dream to come true."

One of the great things about this album is that these are all original arrangements and orchestrations.
SP: They are. They are all brand-new arrangements [by Bob Krogstad, Fred Barton and Steve Potts]. The challenge, whenever you tackle music that people are familiar with and some amazing people have sung, is how do you sort of keep the original integrity of the music — of what the writer's intent was — and yet, put a new and fresh little spin on it? I think the arrangers on this project did a fabulous job in doing just that, and there's still that heart and passion. It still, I hope, tries to capture the story, that original intent.

In creating this album, did you draw from your concert repertoire from over the years, and was it a specific goal to have new arrangements and orchestrations on the album?
SP: In the last 15 years, I've been doing some pops concerts with different symphonies and have had to come up with some new arrangements. [Over the years, I said,] "Okay, what songs have I always wanted to sing, but I never got to sing?" "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" was definitely on that list and The Sound of Music medley, so some of these arrangements were collected over the last 10 or 15 years. I don't know if that was an intentional thing [for the album], it's just sort of the way it evolved.

Have you acted in musicals before?
SP: In high school and college, but other than that, no. I am terrifyingly excited about [playing Dolly in Indianapolis], and I'm looking forward just to see what might develop from it.

Do you consider this a possible new phase in your career? Musical theatre actress?
SP: You know, it wouldn't be "instead of," certainly, but it certainly could be "in addition to" — if that makes sense. You know, everybody has a wish list, and I think one of the things that has been on my wish list for a while would be to do something on Broadway.

Cover art for "Broadway Stories"

Again, going back to that Christmas album that I knew, I kept thinking, "Why isn't she offered some of the great roles?" I wondered if you had been offered roles in the past…
SP: I have been offered some roles in the past. My husband and I have eight kids between us. They were really little, and I wanted to just really be a mom, and maybe travel on weekends or a few days here and there, but to relocate for a while, and to really invest [the time and energy], Broadway deserves to have someone invest. I just didn't feel that it was at that season in my life where I could, but now my youngest is 15 and the rest are in college or are grown or married. I think that this could be a new season.

Do you think you could consider touring if someone said we want to send a tour out for six months?
SP: You know, so much is "let's see what the show is, let's see where it's going, let's see if my family can come with me, could we home school for six months?" There's a lot of those factors, but I think it is much more entertainable than it was some years ago.

Can you talk a little bit about the song choices you made for this album? It's incredibly eclectic.
SP: It really represents what I'm drawn to musically and personally. I'm certainly drawn to The Sound of Music, and I'm equally as drawn to Desiree's character in A Little Night Music, and so, that's why I think we had to include "Send in the Clowns." Because of growing up with two brothers and hearing them do these great male roles, I'm drawn to sort of that novelty of doing that medley "A Doll Sings the Guys" that has some of those great men roles. You know, I'll never get to play those roles, but I'll get to sing those songs. And then, you know, to Show Boat to that incredible song "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man of Mine," so I think it really does represent what I love the most about Broadway music.

The Jerry Herman song "Love is Only Love" is slightly obscure. Did conductor Jack Everly introduce it to you?
SP: Yes, he did, and I just fell in love with it. Doing some research on it, it was actually written for Angela Lansbury to do in Mame in the 1960s, but…right before that show opened, they cut that song. So, it was originally written for a Broadway show, but never really made it to a Broadway show. [Barbra Streisand] sang it in the movie version of Hello, Dolly! I love all of those kinds of stories. I wanted to include that because when we do Hello, Dolly! in Indianapolis, we are going to do a hybrid of the movie version and the stage version.

Knowing your history with gospel music and Christian pop, I wonder if a song like "You'll Never Walk Alone" has a greater spiritual resonance for you?
SP: It most certainly does. It resonates with me very much because my faith in God is just central and core to who I am and what I do. And, it also resonates to me on a relational level with other people that we are privileged to share this journey with. We don't have to walk on this journey by ourselves. There are people that will come alongside us either for a reason or a season or a lifetime. I have always loved that song. My mother used to play that as a piano solo based on an arrangement that Roger Williams had done many years ago. I have always loved that song, and it was definitely on that list to do when I was doing this "Broadway Stories" project.

I'm curious to know what shows you did in high school. What roles?
SP: I did West Side Story and I got to play Maria, and then in college I did How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying; I played Smitty.

Have you been to Broadway lately? Have you seen anything on Broadway?
SP: You know, I'm never here long enough to see something. I think the last thing I saw was Lion King, which was just spectacular. I brought my daughter here…for her birthday a couple of years ago, and we saw The Little Mermaid, which was awesome.

Kennneth Jones is managing editor of Playbill.com. Follow him on Twitter @PlaybillKenneth.

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