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Getting Into the Sister Act

Marla Mindelle discusses her role as Sister Mary Robert in the popular new Broadway musical. logo
Marla Mindelle and company in Sister Act
(© Joan Marcus)
Marla Mindelle has delighted musical audiences around the country in such shows as The 25th Annual Putman County Spelling Bee, and now she is raising her voice on Broadway as Sister Mary Robert in the new musical Sister Act, opposite Patina Miller and Victoria Clark. TheaterMania recently spoke with Mindelle about this exciting opportunity.

THEATERMANIA: Your Broadway debut was in the ensemble of South Pacific two years ago, and now you have a major featured role in Sister Act. How did you get the part?
MARLA MINDELLE: By auditioning! Sister Act was my favorite movie as a child. I saw it in theaters four times and it was the first cassette tape I bought. I didn't know if I had a shot at this role, because the only Broadway show I had on my resume was being part of an ensemble. My final callback was in front of 40 people, including Whoopi Goldberg [who starred in the movie and is one of the show's producers]. It was one of the scariest moments of my life and also the greatest moment. I cried afterwards, because I was so glad it was over.

TM: Were you surprised that Whoopi was in the room that day?
MM: I was surprised to see her at the callbacks. Actually, she has been very involved with the casting and making script changes; she has been there the whole way. She gives us pep talks, and, of course, she got us on The View. Whoopi is also making us fat -- she sends us cupcakes.

TM: What have the audience reactions been like so far?
MM: The reactions have shocked me. People are so warm towards this musical. They love it. It's not only fun and has a lot of dancing, but there are many touching moments.

TM: What interested you most about this role?
MM: This is unlike any role I had to play before. I have taken on the quirky role; I've played the bitch. This was a bit scary for me. For the first time, I had to be shy. Sister Mary Robert is meek and shy. It takes a lot of courage and strength for her to stand up to someone like the Mother Superior.

TM: The score is fantastic. What have you learned from Alan Menken?
MM: I grew up knowing every Disney song, but I never realized how brilliant Alan is with other things. He knows how to write for a character better than most composers out there. The songs are so simple, so beautiful, and I love the various types of singing my character gets to do.

TM: You have a powerful solo in the second act. Is that exciting for you?
MM: This song is Sister Mary Robert's total arc -- it's her discovery. By the end of the song, she is ready to try things she's never done. She emerges out of her shell in the second act. The song is brilliant. You can see the whole transformation in three minutes.

TM: Is there a lot of pressure performing that song?
MM: Oh my gosh, yes! I drill those lyrics into my head, because I want it to sound great every night. Plus, I'm Jewish, so I am raised to worry about everything!

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