|Michael J. Lutch|
The flashy and enigmatic Leading Player from Broadway's Pippin opens the show with the words "Join us," inviting the audience into her tent and promising that there's no less than magic in the story she and her troupe of performers are about to tell you.
Yes, while the Leading Player was a role created for and by Ben Vereen (snagging him a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical), for Pippin's Broadway revival, two-time Tony Award-nominated director Diane Paulus (known for her Broadway reinventions of Hair and The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess) is doing a little gender-bending. In her new production the talented ensemble, bowing at the Music Box April 25, is led by a lady.
Patina Miller was picked by Paulus to spread Pippin's magic to today's audiences. As one of Broadway's rising stars, Miller made her Broadway debut just last season as the gutsy nightclub-singer-turned-nun Deloris Van Cartier in the stage adaptation of Sister Act, which earned her her first Tony nomination.
Miller says she caught wind of Pippin's return while performing in a Kander and Ebb revue, First You Dream, at the Kennedy Center this past June.
Having previously worked together on the pre-Broadway revival of Hair during its 2008 run at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, Miller was interested in the project primarily because Paulus was at the helm.
Miller admits, "I wasn't familiar with the show prior to signing on." She laughs, "Maybe that makes me a bad musical theatre person. But going into the audition, I knew what kind of director [Paulus] is; so I couldn't just wing it. I had to do my homework."
After a few rounds of callbacks, and what Miller calls "making a fool" of herself in the audition room, she eventually scored the part.
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