Florrie Bagel plays the always upbeat nun Sister Mary Patrick in the national tour of the Broadway musical Sister Act.
Based on the popular Whoopi Goldberg movie about singer in witness protection who hides out as a nun, the show opens tonight at Seattle’s Paramount Theater and plays through August 25. Unlike movie, which covered popular songs, the musical features a number of original numbers by Featuring original music by Tony and Oscar multiple award winner Alan Menken (Newsies, Beauty and the Beast, and Little Shop of Horrors).
We asked Bagel (shown with Ta'Rea Campbell and Lael van Keuren in the photo left) what it was like to boogie under the habit for a living.
According to your bio, you've been acting professionally since high school. Did you ever want to do anything else?
I grew up with a lot of music, support and imagination around me and I got bit by the theater bug pretty hard. Ever since I was five, I've wanted to be an actor.
Your character, Sister Mary Patrick, is almost relentlessly cheerful. How much "Mary Patrick" is in your own DNA?
"Mary Pat" certainly sees the glass half full to say the very least. She jumps into things with two feet and tries to be encouraging, welcoming and warm to those around her. I definitely tap into my own effervescence to play her. Her cheerfulness has to be grounded in truth. She's definitely a character that's pretty out there, but she can't ever come off as inauthentic. She loves life and tries to see the good in everything. I strive to do that too.
What's the appeal of playing a character like this?
Well, it truly is a fun part. It requires a sizable reservoir of positive energy, and some sweating under my habit and my padded undergarments, but it's a total blast. She is joy. She's upbeat, game for anything, expressive, quirky and goodhearted. The lovely Kathy Najimy originated an incredibly memorable and lovable character in the movie and it's a wonderful thing to get to play Mary Patrick on stage.
There's lots of rollicking, feel-good moments in this show. What's your particular favorite?
My favorite has to be the scene in the choir room into 'Raise Your Voice.'
First of all, Diane Findlay is absolutely brilliant (in general) and as Sister Mary Lazarus, the choir's current conductor. Up until that point, the nuns sing pretty poorly (which is rather fun to do). They are stifled in their humility, simply saying the words, but Deloris comes in and encourage them to think of singing as a way to rejoice in their spiritual connection. The song gains tons of momentum as we all chime in. All of the ladies I have the pleasure to sing with in our lil' convent are wicked singers and when the nuns are unleashed, it's a pretty rockin' sound. Then the incredibly talented and sweet Lael Van Keuren hits some killer high notes that positively soar! That number always gives me chills. Every show.
You’re also an accomplished cabaret performer. What does a cabaret act allow you to do that you can't elsewhere?
I'm slowly but surely putting together my own cabaret called Everything Bagel. I love a wide variety of music- folk, jazz, blues, classic rock, soul, and showtunes. I want to sing a little bit of everything. Cabaret is wonderfully intimate setting. There's so much freedom when interpreting each song. I've never set up my own show in New York, so that's definitely a goal of mine when I return to the city.