Sarah Bolt BFA '03 (Musical Theater)
Divinity and disco may not be an obvious combination, but putting them together is no problem for Sister Mary Patrick in "Sister Act."
As the Broadway originator of the joyful, uninhibited character, Sarah Bolt BFA '03 (Musical Theater) has tapped into her own jovial side to bring the beloved nun from screen to stage.
"She's sort of like my excited side times 12," says Bolt. "She's exhausting but so fun to play eight times a week."
Based upon the 1992 film starring Whoopi Goldberg, the show brings 1970s-inspired glitzy musical numbers to the tale of Deloris Van Cartier, a nightclub singer who hides in a convent after witnessing a crime. Though her unorthodox antics earn frowns from the Mother Superior, Deloris inspires the other nuns to embrace change. She soon leads their choir to unprecedented success, with the help of Mary Patrick's contagious enthusiasm.
Bolt's own success winning the principal role of Mary Patrick followed more than two years in the Broadway ensemble of "Wicked." Earlier, she toured Europe as Jan in "Grease," a part she lined up prior to her UArts graduation.
It wasn't easy to contemplate leaving a blockbuster like "Wicked," but Bolt knew what would prompt her to take the next step.
"I had always said, the way to leave here is if you're still happy, and then you're offered a new Broadway show and a chance to originate something onstage that hasn't been done before," Bolt recalls. "And that was offered – I can't believe it, but it was offered."
Bolt admits it was both exciting and a little scary to land the part played by Kathy Najimy in the "Sister Act" movie.
"Bringing a movie character to life onstage without doing an imitation is sort of tricky," says Bolt, who has been told since middle school that she reminds people of Najimy. "Hopefully I've succeeded in doing that and still staying true to the character that she's so famous for creating."
Bolt notes that real-world training at UArts propelled her on her path to the feel-good musical. "My teachers were people that actually were working in the community," she says. Through Senior Lecturer Jen Childs BFA '90 (Theater), co-founder of the Philadelphia theater company 1812 Productions, Bolt was able to appear in a professional musical while still a student. "I think she really helped me hone those comedic chops that I have to use all the time," Bolt says.
Received to much critical acclaim and nominated for five Tony Awards, "Sister Act" was featured through performances by Bolt and her fellow cast members on "Good Morning America," "The View" and "Dancing with the Stars," as well as at Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and the 2011 Tony Awards ceremony. The cast met President Obama backstage when the show was chosen to host the first major Broadway fundraiser of his re-election campaign.
As "Sister Act" prepares to conclude its Broadway run, Bolt is looking ahead to her wedding later this year and predicts that she'll change gears for a time. Scheduled to appear as the voice of Jemima Puddleduck in the upcoming Nickelodeon cartoon "Peter Rabbit," Bolt plans to explore further voice and television work, as well as comedic and dramatic roles onstage.
While Mary Patrick may exhibit an energy level beyond Bolt’s norm, it's clear that Bolt shares her character's commitment to staying positive. "What has helped me keep going in this career is just surrounding myself with people that really support me and make me happy," she says.