The last time “06880” caught up with Mia Gentile, the former Staples Players and “Kinky Boots” Broadway star had just released a stunning, Black Lives Matter-inspired version of “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?”
She and collaborator musician/video producer Roger Klug called themselves MISSYFIT.
“06880” loves Mia. Previous stories covered the 2007 Staples/2011 Cincinnati Conservatory of Music grad’s clever, multi-genre interpretations of the Stanley Steemer jingle, and her many stage roles back in the days when live theater was a thing.
Which brings us to her latest project.
Once again, Mia and Roger have worked together — though hundreds of miles apart — on a new take of an old classic.
Or in this case, 2 classics.
“It was cathartic for us to ring out 2020 with some punk rock angst,” she says.
They mashed up the Ramones’ “Glad to See You Go” and “I Wanna Be Sedated.” The latter song is particularly apt — you know, “20, 20, 20, 4 hours to go…”
It’s a quick leap to 2020 — the year we can’t wait to bid adieu.
So, with just about 9 hours to go … take it away, Mia and Roger!
Take Creedence Clearwater Revival’s haunting “Have You Ever Seen the Rain.” Add a ’60’s girl group vibe, with Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound. Mix in Mia Gentile, the multi-talented 2007 Staples High School graduate.
What do you get?
A song that — in the days following the killing of George Floyd — manages to be both poignant and uplifting.
Mia Gentile, pitching Stanley Steemer.
That’s the genius of Mia — a former Staples Players superstar who went on to Broadway in “Kinky Boots” — and musician/video producer Roger Klug.
In 2012 they collaborated on a “Stanley Steemer” mashup video, with Mia performing that ubiquitous jingle in every genre from jazz, opera, country and Latin to torch song, punk rock, gospel and Lady Gaga. It wracked up 2 million views, and landed Mia an appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America.
Mia and Roger are back together, this time in a project called MISSYFIT.
After their first single, they recorded a few covers. One was CCR’s tune, which they decuded to take back in time.
Mia and Roger worked long distance, via FaceTime. She was on the computer in her Manhattan bedroom, listening on headphone to the backing track he’d created. He was in his Cincinnati studio, hearing Mia’s a cappella voice. During post-production he cut out the sounds of sirens (and an ice cream truck) that leaked through her window.
For reasons he can’t explain, Roger felt the need to work on “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” before other projects that were further along.
Mia Gentile, today.
Then the unarmed Black man was killed in Minneapolis. News of protests and an explosion of awareness of systemic racism in America felt like an echo of the past.
Roger and his family joined demonstrations in Cincinnati. As he described those events to Mia, they realized they had to release the song. They started to envision how a video could underline the lyrics, speaking to the civil rights movement of the 1960s as well as the resurgent demand for racial equality today.
The 2nd recording session — which included a toy xylophone — took place a few days later. Then Roger went to work mixing the vocals and producing the video. Its images of protests from the ’60s — and now the ’20 — are raw, and thought-provoking.
In retrospect, MISSYFIT’s decision to use a girl group/Phil Spector sound seems compelling. There’s a poignant juxtaposition of a bright, peppy, more innocent time, and the dark lyrics.
“Hearing about war, violence and systemic racism from the mouth of babes (so to speak) is powerful,” Mia says. “Youth continue to be at the forefront of progressive American culture.” (Click the link below to listen.)
The single has been released on MISSYFIT’s YouTube page. Reaction has been very positive.
“This song that came to us on a whim now shines a light on how music and art can hold a mirror up to society,” Mia notes.
If the interminable weather has got you down — and played havoc with your trips to, say, Broadway, for entertainment — here’s an “06880” special.
Last week, nearly a dozen Broadway stars came to Staples. They performed a benefit concert, helping Orphenians — the elite singing group — who head to San Francisco later this month. (They’re one of only 10 high school choirs invited to perform at a 4-day workshop with Chanticleer.)
The concert was organized by Adam Kaplan. He’s a 2008 Staples (and Orphs) alum, and already a Broadway veteran (“Newsies”).
Adam rounded up some of his most talented buddies, from the biggest New York shows. They performed spectacularly — and, in between numbers, added insights about the importance of high school theater and music. Adam and fellow Staples grad Mia Gentile were particularly compelling.
Here’s the entire show. It’s exactly the warmth we need, in this long, cold winter. (NOTE: You’ll have to click the underlined “Watch this video on YouTube” once it loads.)
If your browser does not take you directly to YouTube, click here.
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.
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 Droodtaught 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.”
“1-800-StanleySteemer, the carpet cleaner” is not the world’s most obnoxious remember-this-phone-number jingle.
That honor goes to 1-877-Kars4Kids. Hands down.
The real Mia Gentile.
But even if you think Stanley Steemer is only mildly repellent, you won’t want to miss Mia Gentile‘s music video.
Sure, she repeats the melody over and over. And over. And over again.
But each version is only a few seconds long.
Each is sung in a different genre. There’s jazz. Opera. Girl group. Country. Latin. Torch song. Punk rock. Gospel. Lady Gaga.
Combined with dozens of costume changes, a rollicking piano accompaniment, and Mia’s versatile, vibrant voice, the result is a YouTube video that has — of course — gone viral.
It got 500 hits a couple of hours after Mia posted it on a few Facebook walls. Within a day, there were 13,000.
Now it’s nearing 50,000 hits.
Not bad for a video done just for fun. This was no guerrilla marketing ploy.
Mia Gentile, pitching Stanley Steemer.
Hopefully, though, it will bring the talented 2007 Staples grad — a veteran of Players shows like “Cabaret,” “The Wiz” and “Children of Eden,” who went on the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and earned praise for her regional theater work in plays like “Next to Normal” — to the attention of Broadway casting directors.
Or at least, the producers at a show like “Ellen.”
Mia first recorded “1-800-StanleySteemer” as a voice demo. It was a way to prove her range of styles.
Roger Klug — a very talented rock musician, writer and producer, who collaborated with her on the project — wanted her to turn her jingles into a music video.
The idea sat on the back burner while Mia auditioned in New York. When she returned to Cincinnati, though — performing every night in “Normal,” and singing in jazz clubs — she finally knocked out the video.
It took a few days to come up with costumes. But it was a fun project. Now it’s taking on a life of its own.
Mia, Mia and Mia — a ’50s girl group.
The Facebook friends whose walls Mia shyly posted the video on forwarded it along. It found its way to Reddit, Tumblr and College Humor. Quickly, it went viral.
“It wasn’t our intention to do this for casting directors, but that’s a happy byproduct,” Mia says. “Casting directors want to put you in a box. If people can see I can play a variety of types, that would be great.”
In less than 3 minutes, the video proves, Mia can sing just about any style, and perform just about any role.
Mia and Mia channel Lady Gaga.
Including a sexy woman in a sequin skirt, oozing sensuality while singing about a carpet cleaner: call Mia Gentile.
Though not at 1-800-StanleySteemer.
Click below for Mia Gentile’s YouTube viral video.)
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