In 1989, when Raven-Symoné was three years old, she landed the role of Bill Cosby’s step-granddaughter Olivia in the seminal television series, The Cosby Show. Not content to be merely a child actress, however, Raven launched her career as a recording artist with her first album, “Here’s to New Dreams,” in 1993. And a decade later, after appearing in several movies (including playing Eddie Murphy’s eldest daughter in two Dr. Dolittle movies), she returned to television and won the hearts of millions in the Disney television series that carried her own name – That’s So Raven.
But all that was a warm-up to the main event: her debut as a Broadway leading lady! Because now through August 26, you can catch Raven-Symoné live on stage in Sister Act, the Broadway smash-hit musical based on the beloved 1992 movie. Raven plays Deloris Van Cartier, the nightclub singer who hangs out with the wrong crowd and is forced to take refuge among nuns. Deloris, of course, is the iconic role created in the movie by Whoopi Goldberg, who is also a producer of the show. “I’m so happy to be a part of something produced by Whoopi Goldberg,” says Raven. “And the part is written so well – I just have to say the lines and they are hilariously funny – the audience response is fanatstic. It’s such a blessing.” For her part, Whoopi is delighted to pass the mantle. “Finding an actress who can play Deloris in Sister Act is no easy feat,” she says. “She’s got to sing like an angel, dance her heart out, and land some really big laughs. Luckily for us, Raven is more than up to the challenge, and I’m so glad that audiences have been wowed by her performance.”
The transition from movie to musical for Sister Act involved three productions – Pasadena in 2006, Atlanta in 2007 and London in 2009 – before it made its debut on Broadway in April 2011. Legendary composer Alan Menken – the Oscar and Tony-Award winning composer best known for Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and most recently Newsies – created an original score (with lyricist Glenn Slater) that vividly contrasts the quiet life of the convent with the glitzy showbiz world of nightclubs and sequins, while Tony-winning director Jerry Zaks and Tony-nominated book-writer Douglas Carter Beane re-shaped the London production for Broadway. The story is a classic, comic fish-out-of-water story, which is enhanced by the inevitable clash between the flashy and sassy Deloris and the strait-laced Mother Superior. After a combination of mayhem, misunderstandings and marvelous production numbers, the two women come to understand each other’s strengths, and bond together to save the convent and get the bad guys. Sister Act has become a huge crowd-pleaser on Broadway, receiving five Tony nominations and generating standing ovations every night in New York.
Raven, who took over the role of Deloris in March and will remain in the production through the end of its Broadway run next month, marvels at the energy and discipline it takes to delight audiences eight times a week on Broadway. She credits her “wonderful” vocal coach, Eric Vetro, with helping to get her voice ready for Broadway, and just plain hard work to perfect the dance moves. “To me, doing this show is like a TV show and a concert put together,” she explains. “But you have to play a character all the way through with no stops or cuts or re-takes – it keeps you on your toes! But I have a wonderful cast and crew that make it easy.”
With just a short time left to catch Sister Act on Broadway (the national tour gets underway this October), Raven has this to say to her numerous fans and to those who’ve yet to see the musical: “They need to get their little fannies down here to see it! This show says that people who are different from us can be scary, but we can learn so much from them. It’s also full of happiness and joy. It’s just a wonderful family story.”
Click here to purchase tickets to Sister Act On Broadway.