Entertainment » Theatre

’Sister Act’s’ Ernie Pruneda :: ’It’s All About The Journey’

by Robert Israel
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Jan 15, 2013

Ernie Pruneda begins laughing as soon as he launches into a description of his role as Pablo, one of three henchmen in "Sister Act," which originated as a movie and has been transformed into a hit musical. It plays in Boston as part of the Broadway in Boston series, at the Opera House, from Jan. 22-Feb. 3, 2013.

"This show is fun, fun, fun," Pruneda, 29, says. And then he's chuckling again, letting loose a youthful, spirited, and infectious chortle. "It's such a blast to be part of this show. It's all 1970s music, funky, disco-era tunes that gets you into a groove and keeps you there. You can expect to have a raucous time at the theatre, let me tell you. Everywhere we go the audience is eating it up!"

Pruneda is speaking from Charlotte, N. C., which he describes as a "nice town, a sweet town, really." The folks he's met so far have a distinctive butterscotch tone to their voice, he says. His version of a Southern drawl - he was born in south Texas and went to college in Oklahoma before moving to New York City some years ago - is similar, and he says he fits right in.

A challenge

Being out is a bit more of a challenge for him and his cohorts in the cast, however.

"In every city we visit on this tour," Pruneda says, "a group of us from the cast head out to check out the gay scene, but in this Bible-saturated city, we haven’t found it, yet. So I did some research on TripAdvisor. I was looking for fun stuff to do here. Somebody asked me, did I want to take the Jesus Bike Tour? I think I’m going to pass," he says, and then he’s laughing again. "I’m choosing the Beer and Food Tour instead."

The local daily newspaper, Charlotte Observer, called the show a "sparkle," and the reviewer noted that the audience was roused to give the performers a standing ovation that was "heartfelt and justified."

But when "Sister Act" played in Chicago, the Chicago Tribune waxed enthusiastic: "Well, sing hallelujah for a new, fresh, first-class Equity tour," critic Chris Jones wrote. "Who in their right mind does not love a show about nuns?"

"Sister Act" opened as a film starring Whoopi Goldberg in 1992 and told the story of a Reno lounge singer who enters a San Francisco convent under the witness protection program when a mob boss puts a contract on her life. It was transformed into a musical play, with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Glenn Slater. It had a successful run in London before moving to Broadway in 2011, which is when Ernie Pruneda joined up.

"I was in the original Broadway cast when it opened," Pruneda says. "Originally I was a swing, and during those shows, I got to meet Whoopi Goldberg who came by the theatre a lot and hung out with the cast. But when the opportunity to join the touring cast came up, the producers offered me a chance to play a principal. We get to tour the country and spread the love."

On the road

Pruneda, who studied musical theatre at Oklahoma City University, has called New York City his home for the last eight years. He’s appeared on Broadway in "Les Miserables," "42nd Street," and "White Christmas."

"I had classical training in Oklahoma for voice," he says, "and I had wonderful teachers there. But for this show I get to sing in what I call disco falsetto. Some folks say it sounds a lot like Bee Gees music. My character Pablo sings the top line and I get to belt out the best falsetto I can give for eight shows a week."

As for life on the road, Pruneda, who comes from a Spanish-American background, says he’s living large.

"I really enjoy life on the road," he says. "Of course, it’s early on in the tour, but it’s a great way to see the country, and, during our down time, we go to museums, parks, stores, gay bars, you name it. I’m single, and I’m not dating any one right now.

Someone I know took over my lease in New York. For me, it’s like the universe just opened up for me, so I’m thrilled. And yes, I miss my friends there, but I’ll get to go back to New York to hang out with them soon enough."

Pruneda wants to know all about the gay scene in Boston, and asks about where to go and if there are any drag shows playing when he gets to town. He adds that he’s documenting his trip by taking photographs for his personal photo album that he posts on his Facebook page.

As for the future, Pruneda says, "I haven’t given it much thought. I mean, I live an actor’s life on the road, I’ve put a little money aside, sure, but, basically, I’m flying by the seat of my pants."

He’s signed a year’s contract to perform with the show, and expects to be on the road through the rest of the year. He’s heard rumors that the show is booked through the end of 2014, but no official word has come down as to the veracity of that rumor.

"So, after the year, I’m not sure, " he says, and, then he’s laughing again, assuring his interviewer that he’s not worried. "When the show ends - if it ever ends - I’m thinking of going off backpacking, to continue to see the world. It’s all about the journey, after all!"

"Sister Act: The Musical" will be presented by the Broadway in Boston series at the Boston Opera House from Jan. 22-Feb. 3. For ticket information, visit their website http://boston.broadway.com/.

Robert Israel writes about theater, arts, culture and travel. Follow him on Twitter at @risrael1a.


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