Tony winner Victoria Clark is remarkably philosophical about her impressive career. Ever the spiritualist, Clark finds the life lesson in every part she plays, including shrill Alice Beane in Titanic, Freulein Kost in Cabaret and seen-it-all-before secretary Smitty in the last revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. The clarion soprano won her Tony for an indelible lead performance as fiercely loving mother Margaret Johnson in Adam Guettel’s The Light in the Piazza, and she's now tapping into her sacred side playing Mother Superior in Sister Act. Broadway.com caught up with Clark before a recent preview, and as she donned her wimple she shared her thoughts on her many Broadway co-stars and the personal issues she just might be working out through Mother Superior.
It’s so nice to have you back on Broadway! How did you get involved with Sister Act?
I was walking my dog in Central Park and [director] Jerry Zaks called me! I love working with him, so I knew I had to give it serious consideration.
Is this a very different experience from your other Broadway roles?
What’s interesting about Sister Act is that it was already kind of a machine in motion. It had been done in London, it was already on its way and this character already existed. When I’ve created stuff, it’s been like singing through songs in Adam Guettel’s loft. I can think of a million projects where things started really humbly in somebody’s living room, and that’s beautiful too. It’s all good to me. I’m pretty spiritual about this stuff. I feel like the projects really choose me.
Why do you think Mother Superior chose you right now?
I love how flawed she is; my heart goes out to this lady. The thing about being an actor is that as we get older there are more and more characters to explore and, in general, they get more complicated, so you get to bring all your crazy life experience to the table. This particular character is very complex; I’m learning a lot. Whatever life lesson I’m going through at any point in my life, projects just somehow magically appear that help me work through it. This woman is a control freak, so I’m sure I’m trying to address some issues!
What is it like having the star of the original movie, Whoopi Goldberg, around as a producer?
Whoopi has been great—very respectful and very down to earth. She’s really letting us do our own thing and create, which is wonderful. She’ll come and enjoy it and appreciate it, but right now we’re Jerry’s team.
He directed you in Guys and Dolls, which was your Broadway debut, right?
Well, I was in Sunday in the Park with George as an understudy—I never went on, but I was there! And I was in The Mystery of Edwin Drood for three days; the first day of rehearsal the closing notice went up. I guess that was my first big Broadway role where I actually went on stage.
Since then you’ve worked with an impressive list of Broadway pros. Any co-stars that really stand out in your memory?
It’s funny, my boyfriend and I have only been together three years so sometimes he doesn’t have the full picture; he’ll mention someone and I’ll say, “Oh yeah, worked with him,” all the time. It’s hard to single anybody out; I’ve been so lucky. Matthew Broderick and Megan Mullally were unbelievable to work with in How to Succeed. I loved working with Michael Cerveris in Titanic, and also Marty Moran and Henry Stram. Jeff Blumenkrantz in How to Succeed was and still is one of my favorite scene partners. Michael Stuhlbarg was spectacular in Cabaret, Hunter Foster in Urinetown, Mark Harelik and Kelli O’Hara and of course Matthew Morrison in Light in the Piazza. It just goes on and on.
Can you believe how Matthew Morrison has exploded with his role on Glee?
Here’s the deal with Matty Morrison: He is the most unassuming, nicest, most humble guy, who also happens to be extremely talented. And he’s just a natural on television! He’s really in the tone of [Glee] but he’s also so real and grounded. He deserves every ounce of success that’s coming his way. He’s done a lot for that show, and it’s all a tribute to the high school choir director who changed his life.
You’re a Glee fan, I take it?
That show does so many good things for teenagers. The episode about sex education—that was a big deal. That show is like, “Hey, we’re gonna address these issues,” and good for them! I don’t watch a lot of TV, but I do try to tune in to Glee when I can. It’s also got Jane Lynch, and I’m obsessed with her.
It also pulls in so many Broadway people as guest stars…
I know; I’m sure they’ll come around to me eventually when something good opens up, right? That would be a hoot. I would really love to do it.
Before Glee comes calling, are there any stage roles you dream of tackling?
I do have a couple of things that I would love to do, but I’m not quite old enough for them yet. I feel like my job right now is to have my skills up to their best, so when I’m not on stage I’m in acting class. I’m really just enjoying where I am. I feel like God is going to put the right things in my path.
Well, it seems pretty likely that God had a hand in making you Mother Superior.
You know, I’m a United Methodist and I’ve been going to my church and feeling oddly out of place after wearing the habit. I’m not kidding! I was looking for the liturgy. I’m missing all the saints and saying, “Where’s my rosary, what’s going on?” I guess she’s really getting to me.
See Victoria Clark in Sister Act at the Broadway Theatre.