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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August,9 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 32
Born to be bad - A conversation with Sister Act's Kingsley Leggs
Arts & Entertainment
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Born to be bad - A conversation with Sister Act's Kingsley Leggs

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

SISTER ACT: A DIVINE MUSICAL COMEDY
PARAMOUNT THEATRE
August 20-25


Kingsley Leggs enjoys playing the antagonist. He's done it twice in major roles on Broadway - first in the musical The Color Purple as the strict 'Mister,' and then in the musical Sister Act as a thug named Curtis Jackson. He is now reprising that role with the touring company of Sister Act, coming to the Paramount later this month. SGN caught up with the actor as he prepped for his Emerald City appearance.

Eric Andrews-Katz: Who were your earliest influences?

Kingsley Leggs: When I was a kid I watched a lot of old movie musicals with my grandmother. I saw Elvis, Gene Kelly, and Fred Astaire ... all of those old films were a huge influence, and my first exposure to musical theater. I liked them all. I was a big Elvis fan for a long time, but I loved Gene Kelly.

Andrews-Katz: What was the first show you were in?

Leggs: Carousel, in high school. I was some chorus guy - Man #3 or something. I was in the ensemble.

Andrews-Katz: You made your Broadway debut in The Color Purple. What was your first impression when you heard they made the classic book into a musical?

Leggs: I [actually] made my debut in Miss Saigon. I was in the ensemble and covered the role of John. [Regarding The Color Purple] I thought, 'Wow, that's going to be a difficult musical project.' I don't think I was alone on that. Many people first had that feeling when it first came out - I was surprised how it transformed to a musical stage presentation.

Andrews-Katz: What was your audition like for The Color Purple?

Leggs: It was a typical audition. They send you the material and you learn it. I had several calls, and the process started in L.A. when I lived there. The final stage was in New York. It was interesting on my last callback - I was working on the West Coast at the time. I didn't get a lot of sleep for my New York audition the next morning. I even cracked on the song I sang. Luckily, they hired me anyway.

Andrews-Katz: In the 1985 film, there was much discussion about the violent male attitude of some characters. What challenges did you face while trying to become Mister?

Leggs: I didn't really think of any of that. I certainly learned enough to know [that attitude] was a part of it. I remember that from being around at the time. Once I got into the part, I didn't give a thought to any of that. I wanted to bring truth to the guy, and do the work. I didn't think about what anyone had to say about it. I had to commit to being all that he wants. There was no halfway there. It was all or nothing.

Andrews-Katz: Oprah Winfrey produced The Color Purple musical on Broadway. How does someone react when receiving a personal note from her about the work?

Leggs: I can't say how someone [else] would react, only how I could react. It was a great honor, privilege, and joy to work with such proximity to her. It was very well-appreciated and exciting.

Andrews-Katz: Please describe your audition for Sister Act, the musical.

Leggs: It was pretty much the same. They give you the material you they want you to learn, you learn it, and present the material. My point is that it's the process of an actor. It's not like every audition is a separate experience - it's pretty much consistent. I was fortunate enough to be chosen.

Andrews-Katz: With Whoopi Goldberg being one of the producers of Sister Act, the musical, who was more intimidating to work with: Oprah or Whoopi?

Leggs: I don't think about those kinds of things. Again, it's always a great pleasure to be on a project that puts you close to people like that. Whoopi is very talented and iconic in all mediums - she's one of the few with all of the awards. It was great. It's a wonderful part of what we [actors] do, that we get to be close to these people.

Andrews-Katz: What changes can fans of the film expect for the stage production of Sister Act?

Leggs: They can basically not expect to hear the songs from the movie, but to hear an amazing original score by Alan Menken. It's a wonderful score, very indicative of the 1970s, and it's just fun. That's the biggest thing that has changed. The story is pretty much the same with a different way to tell, that people will find interesting.

Andrews-Katz: Since the two Broadway shows you have been in so far were based on hit films, do you think it's a good trend, going from film to stage?

Leggs: It's the process and obviously the trend [is] having some success. Unfortunately, it has put the kibosh on original projects and original stories. I would like to think people are still doing original material, but not through [as much] funding if it doesn't have a previous track record with the audience. It's an unfortunate place that art is influenced by a turn on the dial. It's a gimmick to make money, and it's just unfortunate. But I can't say that one is better than the other. I wish there was room for all of it.

Andrews-Katz: If you could play any role - regardless of limitations - what would it be, and why?

Leggs: That's a tough one. It's really tough [long pause]. Since for many years I was doing Miss Saigon all over the world, let's say the role of the Engineer. It's a great role, one that I won't ever play, but I always thought about what it would be like to play it.

Sister Act, the musical, is based on the 1992 film of the same name. With Whoopi Goldberg among the list of producers, the musical was first produced in London in 2009. During the London run, Goldberg played a series of performances in the role of Mother Superior. In 2011 the show transferred to Broadway, where it ran for more than 500 performances. For more information and tickets, visit http://stgpresents.org.

HELP A SISTER OUT!
Planning to see Sister Act at the Paramount? Enter promo code TheAbbey when ordering tickets online, and $5 of your purchase will be donated to the Granting Fund of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Abbey of St. Joan! For more info, visit the Sisters on Facebook at www.facebook.com/theabbeyofsaintjoan.

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