According to Noël Coward, Mrs Worthington's daughter;
“…hasn't got a chance, in addition to which
The son of a bitch can neither sing nor dance,”
Words By Josh Boyd-Rochford
Living the dream is something that Patina Miller seems born to do.
Poor Mrs Worthington. Thanks to ‘The Master' we'll forever imagine her as that dreadful creation – the ‘stage mother'; like pushy Mama Rose screeching “Sing out, Louise”; the stage mother lives vicariously through her darling daughter, oblivious to her lack of talent.
One imagines that there are no pushy stage mothers behind Patina Miller and Bonnie Hurst, two of London's current leading ladies – these young women are talented, beautiful, “triple threats” who can very definitely sing and dance, and they are poised to seize the limelight.
Miller and Hurst are both 24 years old, both recent graduates, and both leading ladies in talked about, hotly anticipated shows. But despite the similarities, it is the differences in their careers that reveal there's more than one route to the top.
American Miller will soon play Deloris van Cartier, the lead role made famous by Whoopi Goldberg, in Sister Act. Once a blockbuster movie, it has now made the transition to stage musical and it's coming from across the pond, to settle in at The Palladium. British actor Hurst meanwhile, takes the stage in a production of Zanna Don't, the cult musical that is coming to new fringe venue The Space for a limited season. Both productions open in May, but they couldn't be more different. Big box-office vs. the Independent theatre scene; massive media coverage vs. word of mouth. The deviations between the two shows are vast, but for the two actresses preparing to razzle dazzle, the excitement and anticipation are the same.
“Who would have thought a girl from South Carolina would be in London, aged 24, doing what she loves to do?” laughs Miller. “I had a lot of people tell me that I couldn't do it, that it was just a dream, but you know what? You can live your dream.”
Living the dream is something that Patina Miller seems born to do. Her ascendancy; drama school, ensemble in an out-of-town show, small part in a soap, lead in an Off-Broadway production to West End leading lady seems to have been accomplished with dazzling speed. At the age when most drama school graduates have just started doing the rounds of auditions and hoping for their big break, Miller has been catapulted into a whole new league. But like most ‘overnight sensations' the road here has already been a long one.
“I started really young. I come from a very musical family,” she recalls, “I grew up wanting to sing a lot, watching TV as a child and singing along, putting on my own shows. When I was in the fourth grade [around 9-10 years] my mother put me in a summer programme and we did plays there, musicals and stuff and that's where I think I knew I really wanted to do this for a career and not just for fun.”
© Pete Bartlett 2008
Miller went on to study musical theatre at the prestigious Carnegie Mellon, in Pittsburgh. “Carnegie was amazing for me, the school was a university as well as a performing arts conservatory, so although we were at drama school and we were training, we also got to go out into the University and take classes”. Like musical theatre students in the UK, Miller's training was geared to creating the ‘triple-threat' performer; Singer, Actor, Dancer. “There was an emphasis on acting, with dancing and singing on top,” Miller explains, “Nowadays, you know, you gotta be good at all three. It's better if you can move and sing and dance. I just think it's so important to train the gift you've got. Going to school and being with people like me was really good for me.”
Read the full published article in issue 2 of The Drama Student Magazine.