Patina Miller

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Date: 2023
From: Newsmakers
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Biography
Length: 1,979 words
Content Level: (Level 5)
Lexile Measure: 1310L

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About this Person
Born: November 06, 1984 in Pageland, South Carolina, United States
Nationality: American
Occupation: Actor
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Broadway actress Patina Miller won the 2013 Tony Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical for Pippin, one of the season’s showiest spectacles. The first revival of director‐choreographer Bob Fosse’s 1972 original, Pippin featured Miller as ringleader of a band of circus performers. It was only her second major role in a Broadway musical, and the Tony win came just seven short years after Miller graduated from Carnegie Mellon University.

Left Home Early

Born in November of 1984, Miller grew up Pageland, South Carolina, which hosts an annual Watermelon Festival to showcase Chesterfield County’s signature crop. Her maternal grandmother was a minister, but Miller’s mother strayed as a teenager and became a single parent at 16 when Patina was born. A few years later, Miller’s mother also became a minister in the family’s local congregation, and Miller’s first public performances were solos in the church choir. She admitted that she harbored serious stage fright about singing in public, and only when her mother sent her off to a performing arts camp for the summer was she able to conquer it.

Miller left Pageland after winning a place at the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities in Greenville, located several counties away. After graduating she went on to Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh on a full scholarship. Known as a top‐tier performing‐arts school, CMU has a long list of famous alumni, many of them multiple Tony Award winners. When she graduated in 2006 with a musical theater degree, she had already started pursuing roles. Flown out to California during her senior year for an audition, Miller was one of three finalists for the role of Effie in the long‐awaited film version of the Broadway musical Dreamgirls. It went instead to American Idol winner Jennifer Hudson.

Reprised Goldberg Role

After she moved to New York City, one of the first post‐degree auditions that Miller attempted was for another hot property—this time, the stage version of a popular film from 1992, Sister Act. Whoopi Goldberg made an appealing fake nun in the light comedy as Deloris Van Cartier, a nightclub singer hiding out from gangsters in a Roman Catholic convent, and Goldberg was executive producer of the stage version. Again, Miller auditioned for the lead and emerged as a frontrunner, but she was asked to wait until a final decision was made. She agreed, although it meant she was unable to commit to other stage roles with open‐ended finish dates. As a wannabe singer, Miller had loved both Sister Act and its sequel, subtitled Back in the Habit. In fact, one of the young performers in the second film was a pre‐fame Lauryn Hill, and Miller had once chosen “His Eye Is on the Sparrow,” Hill’s solo song, for a middle‐school talent show.

To tide her over in the interim, Miller looked for television jobs that were shot in the New York City area. In 2007 she landed a recurring role on the ABC daytime drama All My Children and was able to accept a fairly prominent part for a Central Park summer event, a revival of Hair, the 1969 Broadway musical. She played Dionne in the Public Theater’s 2008 staging and sang the first lines in the memorably jubilant opener, “Aquarius.”

Sister Act: A Divine Musical Comedy was finally greenlit with Miller in the lead as Deloris, who reluctantly dons a habit to become Sister Mary Clarence. Goldberg essentially handed the role over to her, as Miller is quoted by New York Times writer Patricia Cohen as saying. “She told me this was my moment and to forget about what she had done,” Miller said. Making her West End debut on June 2, 2009, on opening night at the London Palladium, Miller earned a standing ovation after the finale. Reviewers noted that Miller had obviously worked hard to prepare for the career‐launching role. “Her magnificent voice is rich, soaring and, crucially, unflagging,” wrote Fiona Mountford in the London Evening Standard. “She might have been unknown last night, but today all that will have changed.” Other critics gave the musical mixed reviews but commended the newcomer. “Miller invests Deloris with a wealth of raucous energy,” wrote Michael Billington in the Guardian, and Times of London critic Benedict Nightingale called her “the show’s great plus.” Singling out her “terrific voice,” Nightingale stated, “Add warmth, humour, vivacity—and you’ve a star who lacks Goldberg’s wry vulnerability but adds dazzle to the razzle around her.”

Took It to Broadway

Miller was nominated for a prestigious Laurence Olivier Award as Best Actress in a Musical during the show’s near‐17‐month‐long run. She went with it to New York City in the spring of 2011, making her Broadway debut on April 20, 2011. Again, critics gave the rather unoriginal disco‐diva story mixed reviews as a whole, but they deemed Miller an obvious rising star. New York Times critic Charles Isherwood cited her “radiant presence and a strong voice with a tangy timbre” and remarked that “even when Deloris is shimmying in a leopard miniskirt in the show’s opening number, Ms. Miller somehow exudes sweetness and sincerity.”

Miller had also earned high marks for adapting to changes imposed on the show before it came to Broadway, as producers tinkered with it to suit a new audience. “Our entire book changed,” she was quoted by Simi Horwitz in a Back Stage interview as saying. “We got a new director, Jerry Zaks.” But Miller added, “For me, the bigger challenge was in London.”

Miller was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for Sister Act, but lost out to Sutton Foster for Anything Goes. In March of 2012 Miller bowed out as Deloris and handed the role over to former Cosby Show star Raven‐Symoné. Both that and Hair had been rewarding roles, she told Horwitz in the Back Stage interview. “It’s seeing 75‐year‐old women marching up to the stage and bopping along as if they were at a concert, or it’s when people wait for you outside—then you know you’ve touched them,” she reflected.

Trained in Aerial Gymnastics

Several months were spent in arduous preparation for her next role, Pippin, the first‐ever revival of the long‐dormant 1972 Broadway musical from the late director‐choreographer Bob Fosse. The story is set in early medieval France and centers on the quandary of its title character—known to history as Pepin, son of Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne—who is designated heir but unsure of his suitability for the job. He falls in with a band of itinerant performers emceed by the no‐name “Leading Player.” Singer/dancer Ben Vereen originated the role under Fosse in 1972, and Miller was cast in the American Repertory Theater revival during its developmental workshop phase in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the summer of 2012. The new version replaced some of the singer‐dancers with trapeze artists, gymnasts, and other performers in a traveling circus.

Miller underwent an especially tough tryout for the lead, she told Suzy Evans in a Back Stage interview. “Literally, I walk into my audition, and they’re like, ‘Actually, you’re going to go into another room, and you’re going to learn the “Manson Trio.” You only have 30 minutes.’” She was referring to one of the musical’s best known dance sequences as choreographed by Fosse, a notorious perfectionist whose sinuous, athletic style shaped modern American musical theater. Fosse’s work process was so storied he even used it to develop a semi‐autobiographical musical, All That Jazz, which was made into a 1980 film. In it, an overworked director‐choreographer pushes himself and his dancers to the edge of physical collapse, and the producers of his latest show make a gamble that he will die and they can recoup their losses via the show’s insurance policy. In real life, Fosse lived another seven years after the film’s release.

Vereen had won the 1973 Tony Award as Pippin’s Leading Player, and Miller was nervous about trying to live up to that achievement in the grueling audition process. As she told Evans in Back Stage, she pushed away her nerves and opted “to sell it as best as I could.” Even when she was offered the role and knew it required trapeze work, she hid her fear of heights. “I was scared out of my mind,” she said in the same interview about her first time on the trapeze. “Sometimes in this business, you’ll be asked to do things that you’re not completely sure of or not in your comfort zone, but you just do it.”

Won Tony Award

Pippin had its out‐of‐town previews at the Loeb Drama Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in January of 2013 and moved to Broadway for previews in late March. It opened at the Rialto Music Box Theater on April 25, 2013, and collected a sheaf of terrific reviews the next day. “Miller is charismatic, vocally arresting, and in command as the troupe’s high‐hatted ringmaster,” judged Variety writer Frank Rizzo. Writing in WWD, Lorna Koski termed Miller’s “a kinetic performance that’s one of the highlights of the show.” Koski continued: “Fosse’s choreography is also notoriously difficult, and many of the original Fosse moves have been kept by the current choreographer, Chet Walker, who appeared in the first production of Pippin.

Six weeks after Pippin opened, Miller won the Tony for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical. This marked the first time in Tony history that both a male and female performer had won the Best Lead in a Musical for the same part. It capped an already‐magnificent year, for Miller’s fiancé, venture capital executive David Mars, had proposed to her on Pippin’s opening night; the couple were scheduled to wed in June of 2014. Miller made her film debut in 2014, too, in yet another dazzling entertainment spectacle: She was cast in Parts One and Two of the next installment of The Hunger Games series, Mockingjay.

“It’s Been a Long Journey”

Miller’s other theater credits include Romantic Poetry, and she toured with Being Alive. Her trajectory from rural South Carolina to Broadway star had taken just under a dozen years. “It’s been a long journey for me,” she told New York Times journalist Anahad O’Connor in an online video feature story that profiled her daily fitness regimen and pre‐show prep for the physically demanding Pippin role. “I come from a family of diabetes and different health problems, and I don’t want that for myself. So I take care of myself, and I try to encourage my family members back home to do the same. The feeling that you get from being in control of your health and the way you look is a feeling like no other.”

In 2019, Miller was cast as the witch in the popular musical Into the Woods. Her performance was praised by critics, and the actress was tagged to reprise her role in the 2022 Broadway revival of the musical. In 2023, Miller and the rest of the cast of Into the Woods earned a Grammy Award for best musical theater album for the recording of the production.


Born Patina Renea Miller, November 6, 1984, in Pageland, SC; daughter of a minister. Education: Carnegie Mellon University, B.F.A., 2006. Addresses: Agent—Grant Parsons, Curtis Brown Group Ltd., Haymarket House, 28‐29 Haymarket, London SW1Y 4SP, United Kingdom. Home—New York, NY.


Made West End debut in the original cast of Sister Act, London Palladium, 2009; reprised role for Broadway debut at Broadway Theater of New York, 2011; also appeared in Pippin (revival), Music Box Theater, New York City, 2013—. Television appearances include: All My Children, 2007‐08. Film appearances include: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part I, 2014.


Theatre World Award for Sister Act, 2011; Outer Critics Circle Award for outstanding actress in a musical for Pippin, 2013; Tony Award for best performance by an actress in a leading role in a musical, for Pippin, 2013; Grammy for best musical theater album (with others) for Into The Woods (2022 Broadway Cast Recording), 2023.



Back Stage, May 26, 2011, p. 10; May 23, 2013, p. 18.

Evening Standard (London, England), June 3, 2009.

Guardian (London, England), June 3, 2009, p. 34.

New York Times, February 20, 2011, p. 4; April 21, 2011, p. C1.

Times (London, England), June 3, 2009, p. 30.

Variety, January 14, 2013, p. 16.

WWD, April 2013, p. 10.


“Into the Woods Receives 2023 Grammy Award,” Dramatists Guild, (June 12, 2023).

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Gale Document Number: GALE|K1618006034