by Rita Charleston
As an updated version of the old saying might go, “You can take Ta’Rea Campbell out of Philadelphia, but you can never take Philadelphia out of Ta’Rea Campbell.”
Nor would she want you to. That is because this actress, who grew up in West Oak Lane, attended Mt. Airy Baptist Church, J. Hampton Moore Elementary School, Wilson Middle School, the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts and Marymount Manhattan College, is extremely proud of her roots. She’s also thrilled that the show she’s now appearing in, “Sister Act,” is set in Philadelphia, and makes lots and lots of references to the town she loves. (“Sister Act” will be performed at the Academy of Music from April 2 to 7.)
Campbell, who declined to state her age, takes the role of disco diva Deloris Van Cartier, made famous in the huge hit 1992 film by Whoopi Goldberg.“The original version of ‘Sister Act’ was set in San Francisco, but today the show is set in 1977 Philadelphia,” Campbell explained. “And the first words out of my mouth as I face the audience are ‘Hello, Philadelphia,’ and I am so excited to say that.”
Funny thing is, she continued, “A cousin of mine who lives in Indianapolis told me that when she came to see the show in her hometown and heard that line, she thought I might have forgotten where I was!”
On the contrary, Campbell said, not only had she not forgotten, but she was extremely happy to be saying other lines throughout the show that make references to Germantown, South Philly and other Philly neighborhoods.
“Sister Act” follows the unexpected career-altering path of Cartier, an out-of-work nightclub singer who discovers that her affiliation with Curtis, her married gangster lover, may not have been a wise choice. After auditioning for him and his three yes-men stooges, she witnesses a murder in the club’s back alley committed by Curtis. Fearing for her life as a witness to a murder, she runs to the nearest police precinct where a police officer who remembers having a crush on her in high school figures out a plan and hustles her off to a convent for safe keeping.
“Although I did see the film, I don’t think I was influenced by it because our script isn’t the same,” Campbell said. “It’s the same idea, but it’s not word-for-word, so it’s not like I’m mimicking the role. Ours is its own entity.”
In fact, the actress said she tries to make each role her own by remembering a quote by Sandy Meisner (actor and acting teacher who helped develop a form of Method Acting). “It was something along the lines that acting is creating believable responses to non-realistic things that are happening. So I think that in whatever role I’m playing, I take the time to look at the words on the paper and then try to give the most honest interpretation of what a real person would do under the circumstances.”
Over the years, Campbell has been able to employ her significant talent in many shows. On Broadway she appeared in “Leap of Faith,” “The Book of Mormon,” “The Lion King” and “Aida,” among others. But after all those years and all those roles, she’s finally coming home to play in front of friends and family.
“I’m very excited to be coming home and playing with this great cast in this great work,” Campbell insisted. ”I always have lots of nervous energy before each performance, no matter where I am, and this time will be no exception. You also have to realize that this is musical theater, and musical theater is live theater, so anything can happen. But I’m really looking forward to being in my hometown again.”
Tickets range from $25 to $110. More information at 215-893-1999 or 215-790-5883.