BWW Interview: Richard Pruitt of SISTER ACT
First of all, thank you for taking the time to talk to BroadwayWorld in Omaha.
Let's start at the beginning. When did you know that you wanted to be a performer? Was it something you were always interested in? Or did that interest come later in life?
Well, it was absolutely not something I always knew I wanted to do. There is no performing history in my family at all. In high school I auditioned for the school musical. I don't even really know why, but I was 17 years old, and I got into the musical. That audition was honestly the most out of character thing I've ever done in my life because I was almost pathologically shy as a child. I sometimes think I subconsciously auditioned for the show because I knew I needed to do something to get me out of this terrible shyness. Other than that, I don't really have an excuse for it. I never intended to make a career of this. I graduated from college with the intention of becoming an English teacher, but I just sort of kept getting jobs. Somewhere along the line I just realized that I was an actor and that acting was probably what I was supposed to do. It was never an ambition of mine, but as John Lennon said, "Life is what happens when you're making other plans." I was planning to be an English teacher, but life wanted me to be an actor, I guess.
And what an acting career you've had so far. Not only have you been in some amazing theatre productions, but you've also had opportunities on screen in both television and film. Did you notice any big differences between performing on stage and performing in front of a camera?
They are very different experiences. Most of my film work was in commercials in the nineties. I guess I must have been ok at it because they kept hiring me. While I am entirely comfortable on stage, I was never entirely comfortable in front of the camera. I always felt this pressure of so much money being spent to have me on camera and I couldn't mess up. At times I was very uncomfortable, but I got through it. I made some money and I enjoyed some of it. I felt very tense at times and ideally you should never feel more relaxed than on camera. So, while I booked jobs, I never sought it out a lot because I preferred to be on stage.
You also lent your voice to the popular video game Grand Theft Auto IV. What was that experience like for you?
Being in a sound booth is a lot more relaxing. It was a little strange because I got a call from my agent saying that I booked a video game and that I needed to go in to record the following day. I asked her, "What videogame?" She told me that I had auditioned for it a while back. I went back through my date book and I found that it had been exactly a year since I had auditioned for that job. I had totally forgotten about it. I spoke to the producer when I went in for the job and she said, "It's not normally like this. We screwed up. We thought we had recorded you a year ago." I recorded for, I think, four days. I was probably the last person to record for that game.
Getting back to your incredible theatre career... You have been performing for over 40 years now in productions ranging from National Tours to Off-Broadway, and even shows on Broadway. Has there been a particular show or role that you loved performing?
People ask me this and it's tough, you know, because I've done so many musicals, but I'd have to say that some of my favorite characters were back in college. I tell kids to enjoy their college roles because a lot of times there won't be a lot of opportunities to play some of those roles outside of college. I got to do Enemy of the People, and I had the chance to play an incredible character. All of these years later and I still remember that role.
As far as the show itself, I would have to say that Bat Boy: The Musical was a very special show for me. I performed off-Broadway with that show back in 2001. It was an amazing experience because we were able to help shape the show with all of the workshops before we opened off-Broadway. We played for ten months, and it was one of those shows where people would come and see it 30 or 40 times. Both of my boys saw it at least 10-15 times. They loved it. It was such a great show to be a part of.
What was your audition experience like for Sister Act? Had you seen the movie before you auditioned for the musical?
I saw the movie when it first came out on video years ago, but I hadn't seen it since then. I remember enjoying it, but I didn't remember much about it at all. When I first got a call to audition, my first question to my agent was, "What is there for me to play in Sister Act?" I didn't remember a whole lot about it, and I had never seen the show. I went in for my audition and I got the part of the Monsignor. I actually had a lot easer audition than most of the people in this cast. I was in my audition for maybe 10 minutes, while others were in for several days and for hours at a time. One girl flew to NYC on multiple occasions solely for callbacks. I went in one day, and got a call the next day offering me the job. At first I thought I might have been chosen to replace someone, but that wasn't the case. We started rehearsals probably three months after I got the call.
With the film version of Sister Act being the huge hit that it was, and still is, how have the audience responses been to the musical adaptation?
As far as attendance, it has been exceptionally good. Weather has played a part in some of the turnout in the past couple months. There have been shows where we have played to a few empty seats, while we have played to standing room only at others. Now, the audience reception has been incredible! They roar with laughter and they always stand up at the end of the show, and even sometimes before. Even when it's a standing ovation, most of the audience is swaying and clapping along with the music. Sometimes they even jump out into the aisles to dance. Audiences go crazy for the show. Really, the audience reception has been great!
Well I know Omaha audiences are ready to experience this show and dance along with the cast of Sister Act. Any last thoughts for our Omaha readers?
This is a very entertaining show. There's a story, and there's a little bit of a gentle message, but above all it's pure entertainment. If you are wanting to see Hamlet, this is not it. This is pure fun. It's raucous, and flashy, and it's very Broadway musical. I can guarantee that people who come to the show will have a great time.