Mia Gentile‘s resume includes impressive credits: Off-Broadway and regional shows; 4 years at the prestigious Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music; many awards and honors.
But things get really interesting when she lists “Special Skills”: dialects (Cockney, Scottish, Irish, Spanish, French, German); improvisational singing (jazz scat and gospel solo), and diva imitations (“i.e., Celine Dion”).
The 2007 Staples grad doesn’t even mention her role in a racy parody of a popular novel, called “Fifty Shades of F****d Up.” Or her star turn in a Stanley Steemer parody video that went viral. Mia sang that repellent jingle over and over and over again — each time in a different genre.
All of that is great training for her latest gig. Mia is one of 2 female cast members in Forbidden Broadway Comes Out Swinging.
Right now, the show is busy adding razor-sharp send-ups of Pippin, Kinky Boots, Les Miz and Matilda, to last year’s favorites like Wicked and The Book of Mormon. Honing its edges, it opens officially on Sunday (May 4) at the Davenport Theatre on 45th Street.
It’s the type of show where Mia can play several African American roles — Diana Ross, anyone? — and land on the right side of hilarious.
Acting on a New York stage requires plenty of talent, energy, flexibility and commitment. But Forbidden Broadway‘s demands are tougher than most.
In this “Sound of Music Live on NBC” sketch, Mia plays Audra MacDonald, (right), while Carter Calvert is Carrie Underwood.
“Vocally, I’m all over the map,” Mia says. Each scene, she plays someone new. She not only has to act and sing — she’s got to act and sing like other singers and actors. She has to do it convincingly, and also with humor.
But not too much. This is parody, not slapstick.
“Vocally I’m all over the map,” Mia says. “Every number is a new costume, really a new show.”
During a manic schedule of rehearsals and preview performances, she’s learned a lot about comedy.
“You can’t prepare too much,” Mia says. “You don’t know what’s funny until you’re in front of a live audience. I just have to trust the material, and find out what works as we go along.”
Of course, Mia has prepared plenty for this role. Her career began in Westport, and Music Theater of Connecticut. She credits voice teacher Kevin Connors, Staples choral director Alice Lipson, Staples Players directors David Roth and Kerry Long, and choreographer Joanne Kahn for much of her success.
This “Cabaret Revival” sketch includes Carter Calvert as Liza Minelli, Mia Gentile as Michelle Williams playing Sally Bowles, and Scott Foster as Alan Cumming (the MC).
“The Staples shows were so rich, complex, stimulating, challenging and fun,” Mia says. Yet each was different. For example, Urinetown was “stylized comedy”; The Mystery of Edwin Drood taught her about improv.
At CC-M, many classmates came from performing arts schools. They could not believe Mia had gone to a public high school.
Still, nothing could have prepared the Westporter for the demands of Forbidden Broadway. Pausing in a rare free moment between yoga class and one of her 8 weekly performances (plus rehearsals), Mia says, “This show is very alive right now. We’re getting ready for Tony season, and our opening run.”
That’s no joke.