The Denison High School Theatre Department brought comedy to the convent this weekend with its spring production of “Sister Act.”
The Broadway musical comedy was adapted from 1992 movie by the same name that starred Whoopi Goldberg as the good-timing lounge singer Deloris Van Cartier. Deloris’ path to stardom takes a turn for the worse when she witnesses a mob murder and must stay safe by starting anew as a nun in a San Francisco convent. There, she must change her ways and work toward helping her sisters of the cloth by becoming their sorely-needed choir director.
“It’s fun and upbeat,” DHS Theatre Director Amy Jordan said of the group’s end-of-year production. “And, honestly, who doesn’t like singing nuns who dance?”
Jordan said the theater department settled on “Sister Act” because its largely female cast fit well with the high number of young women enrolled Denison High’s theater program. She said the 85 members of the cast and crew began work on the show in January and all rehearsed largely during their theater class time as not to encroach on their academics.
“The sheer number of children is the part that’s been hard to manage,” Jordan said. “But this production has been a lot of fun. It wasn’t too stressful, and I think it’s a good one to end the year on.”
The theater director and educator said the main difference between the stage version of Sister Act comes in the time period. The original film was set in the early ’90s, while the musical adaptation was written to take place in 1978 — a year, Jordan said, is well reflected in the groovy music and costumes.
DHS student Rachel Rosser, who plays the part of Deloris, wore a wide range of outfits for the show. The costumes stretched from a lively leopard-skin jacket to the more modest habit, the dress of many nuns. But it was the personality of Deloris that she said ultimately drew her in.
“As soon as I heard this was the show we were doing and there was this part, I was like ‘I’m working for this, and I’m not giving up,” Rosser said. “It has been a challenge. I have to show a huge change, starting with this bad attitude and being rude and wild, and then slowly I have to change into a more respectable and kinder person. You have to find those moments and make it obvious to the audience that this inner change is happening.
But for the whole cast, Rosser said, the biggest challenge in bringing the Broadway adaptation of “Sister Act” alive was the sheer volume of vocal work.
“We’re not a group that’s big on singing,” Rosser said. “So we had to work really hard to remember the notes and get the dancing down at the same time. It was hard to bring that all together.”
Senior Calvin Russell agreed and said the singing abilities of his character, police Lt. Eddie Souther, were by far the most difficult part for him to master.
“The singing was really hard,” Russell said. “Eddie’s vocal range is way up there, so every day I’d just go home after school and I’d listen to the songs repeatedly. I’d try to hit his high note over and over again, just getting a little bit closer each time until I perfected it.”
Russell said he is glad to end his high school theater career with a show as fun as “Sister Act,” and it was all the more enjoyable because he got to play a character in which he saw much of himself.
“I like that he’s kind of like me,” Russell said. “He’s nerdy, he sweats a lot, and I had this dream, a little bit, to become a cop when I was younger. But now that I want to do theater, I get to play a cop. It worked out pretty good.”
With final showing of Sister Act set to begin at 2 p.m. Sunday in the Smith Auditorium at Denison High School, Jordan said the feeling was bittersweet, but she still had reason to rejoice.
“I’ll be sad to see it go,” Jordan said. “But I’m always excited when a show closes, because that means there’s something new around the corner. Fortunately for me, that’s summer vacation.”