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Patina Miller: Broadway's Girl on a Wire

After stealing the show in Broadway’s ”Sister Act” in 2011, the talented Patina Miller won hearts (and a Tony) as the mischievous, mysterious Leading Player in the hit circus-inspired revival of ”Pippin;” Jazz hands have never looked so glorious

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Patina Miller dangles from a trapeze almost 20 feet above the stage, belting out the final notes of the opening song from the Tony-winning Broadway revival of Pippin. Over the next two-plus hours, Miller plays with pyrotechnics, levitates a king, performs soft-shoe, Hula-Hoops, and hypnotically leads a troupe of acting acrobats through the not-so-historically-accurate story of a ninth-century Frankish prince in search of purpose. She is the fearless, flying, ferocious Leading Player, but she has a secret: “I’m a little scared of heights.”

“She never told me that!” says director Diane Paulus, whose first choice for the role was always the 29-year-old actress, a rising star since she played the Whoopi Goldberg role in Broadway’s Sister Act in 2011. “But that’s just so typical of Patina. It’s her determination, her virtuosity. She is such a creature of the theater.” She needs all the skill she can muster to play Pippin‘s cunning, charismatic narrator — a part originated in 1972 by Ben Vereen. “It’s a very intense, physical role, but I feel very powerful,” says Miller. “Before the curtain goes up, I have this big spotlight on me. I’m the first thing they see. It’s electrifying.”

From the dazzling opening to the fiery finale, Miller has to act, sing, and shimmy through demanding Fosse-like choreography. Throw in acrobatics and magical illusions, and Miller is a quintuple threat. She’s earned impressive rewards for her Pippin star turn: In addition to winning a Tony, she was cast as Commander Paylor in the last two Hunger Games films. And her longtime boyfriend, venture capitalist David Mars, proposed on opening night. “He was sweating the entire show,” says Miller, laughing. It wasn’t the usual popping-the-question jitters — he was more worried about her high-flying act. “He was like, ‘Baby, do you have insurance?'”

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