Patina Miller faces a significant challenge as she takes on the role of the Leading Player in the Broadway revival of Pippin. For one thing, Miller’s only previous Broadway experience was starring in Sister Act. For another, Miller not only has to step into big shoes but shoes meant for another gender: the role was originally written for Ben Vereen, a male Broadway legend. She spoke to Playbill about preparing for the role, working with director Diane Paulus (who previously directed well-received revivals of Hair and The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess), and learning the choreography created for the original show by the iconic Bob Fosse.
Though hesitant to admit it, Miller says she wasn’t familiar with Pippin before trying out for the show and instead wanted the part in order to work with Paulus. She says, “I wasn’t familiar with the show prior to signing on. 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 callbacks (during which Miller says she was “making a fool” of herself), she was cast in the role.
Still, Miller refused to have her relative lack of Broadway experience hold her back and asked her fellow cast members to help her out. She explains, “It’s been a team effort. I’m a perfectionist. I told everyone at the very beginning, I want you to teach me and really show me. I can move, I can dance, but I really set out to get the Fosse choreography.”
Nonetheless, despite the help Miller does confess that it is very difficult learning Fosse’s choreography. She says, “The style is very contained. As performers, you want to be big. Hit every moment hard. With Fosse it’s about making it look like a walk in the park. When there is a jolt of a move, it’s on purpose.”