Trust me on this: Patina Miller is one terrific singer. In January, I heard her soar effortlessly from Broadway to jazz and beyond; now she'll do that Friday (March 28) on "Live From Lincoln Center." It's been a busy time for someone who's just a decade removed from small-town South Carolina. Here's the story I sent to papers:
By MIKE HUGHES
Patina Miller might be getting used to being a big-time,
big-city star. She has:
Revived a Broadway role that Ben Vereen made
famous. “On opening night of ‘Pippin,’ he sat right behind my mom,” she said. “No
pressure; it was really crazy.”
Won a Tony Award for that role, on an historic
night. “There were four African-Americans that won the Tonys, all in the same
year,” said Leslie Uggams, who was once the only black star of Broadway
musicals. “That really showed that there are more shows that are opening up for
And prepared for Friday’s big moment, a PBS
concert from the prestigious Lincoln Center. “It’s going to be inspired by some
of my favorite music – Broadway, R&B, gospel, jazz,” Miller said.
This city success is happening to someone who grew up in
Pageland, a South Carolina town of 2,500.
“There weren’t a lot of artistic opportunities,” Miller, 29,
said. “So the things that I found were watching movies … and watching programs
This was a single-parent family, short on money but long on encouragement.
“My mom and my grandmother were both very strong women,” Miller said. “And my
mom always said, ‘They can tell you no, (but) somebody’s going to say yes.’”
After hearing her sing at home and in a gospel choir, her
mother looked for more opportunities. Miller recalls being 9 or 10 and “going
to a summer arts program about three towns away …. I would get up in the
morning when all the kids were sleeping and I would go on the little bus.”
Next came a boarding school (South Carolina’s School for the
Arts and Humanities) and a scholarship to Carnegie Mellon University. And then
a short-cut to success … almost.
At 21, Miller was one of three finalists to play Effie in
the “Dreamgirls” movie. Jennifer Hudson got the role and an Academy Award;
Miller took a more gradual route.
In New York, she did a soap opera (“All My Children”) and
two non-Broadway musicals; in London, she starred in “Sister Act” and received
an Olivier Award nomination. She also received a Tony nomination when the show
reached New York, but her next Broadway show was the big on
“Pippin” cast Miller as The Leading Player, the show’s
razzle-dazzle narrator. This version would have more dazzle than ever; she
would do the opening number upside-down on a trapeze. That took nerve -- “I’m
afraid of heights; I didn’t tell anyone” – and physical fitness; the fitness
comes in handy in her upcoming movie role as Commander Paylor, a rebel leader
in the third “Hunger Games” movie.
Miller continues to do “Pippin” and has major fans,
including Vereen (who has seen the show several more times), Uggams (who calls
her “quite astounding as a performer” and Andrew Wilk, the “Live From Lincoln
“Patina is a powerhouse vocalist,” Wilk said. Now he’s
giving her an hour to unleash that power.
“Live From Lincoln Center,” with Patina Miller
in concert; 9 p.m. Friday, PBS (check