NEW YORK — Raven-Symone is all grown up — and going to a convent.
The former cutie from "The Cosby Show" will take over the lead part in Broadway's hit musical "Sister Act" later this month, playing a nightclub-singer-turned-nun.
The 26-year-old actress and singer says she's in rehearsal almost every day of the week from "sun-up to sun-down" to "make sure I have everything down" when she takes over at the Broadway Theatre on March 22.
Raven-Symone says she fell in love with the musical the moment she saw it. "I was definitely one of the audience members dancing in the aisles," she says. "I think it's a wonderfully scored and directed and written musical. I'm very excited to be part of this."
She takes over the role from Patina Miller, who earned a Tony Award nomination in the part and whose final performance is March 18. Whoopi Goldberg, who was the original Deloris Van Cartier in the hit 1992 film, is producing the musical.
While Raven-Symone did a guest spot with "The Boys Choir of Harlem" on Broadway when she was 5, she prefers to think of this as her Broadway debut.
"I want to do stuff I haven't done before. I did it at 5 but I don't remember that, obviously. So I want to do it for real — a big, crowd-pleasing show as well as working with these great people."
"Sister Act" opened on Broadway in April 2011 after a stint in London and was nominated for a best musical Tony last year. It has original tunes by songwriter Alan Menken and lyricist Glenn Slater.
The musical's plot is faithful to the movie: A nightclub singer accidentally witnesses a murder by her crime boss lover and flees to a convent to hide. The stuffy nuns come alive as she teaches them razzle-dazzle and rhythm while she, in turn, learns the value of sisterhood and self-sacrifice.
Raven-Symone will try to stay faithful to the part. "I can only do what I can do," she says. "The role is written so well that I don't want to deviate too far from the character that she already is."
Raven-Symone became famous playing the apple-cheeked Olivia for the last few seasons of "The Cosby Show," was in "Hangin' With Mr. Cooper" for several seasons, and played Charisse in the two "Doctor Dolittle" movies opposite Eddie Murphy.
Her other credits include providing the voice of the teenage crime fighter Monique in the animated "Kim Possible" and her own show "That's So Raven," which ran on the Disney Channel from 2003-2007.
More recently, she's played the voice of Iridessa in the animated "Tinker Bell" series, starred in the TV series "State of Georgia" in 2011, was in a few Cheetah Girl movies and appeared in the film "College Road Trip" opposite Martin Lawrence.
Born Raven-Symone Pearman, she says she grew up loving musicals like "Hello, Dolly!" She also has put out four albums under her name, including her most recent self-titled CD in 2008.
Raven-Symone says she is a little nervous about hitting the stage — but not about pleasing critics.
"I'm really not the kind of person who worries about every single review. My thing is my family's going to watch, and I don't want to look stupid on stage. So I'm going to make sure that doesn't happen."
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