Curiocity: Q&A With ‘Sister Act’s’ Mother Superior

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(credit: Joan Marcus)

(credit: Joan Marcus)

Sara Boyd Sara Pelissero
Sara Pelissero joined the WCCO web team in August of 2009. You can...
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It was 21 years ago when the story of a Reno lounge singer turned convent choir director entered our lives for the better.

“Sister Act,” starring Whoopi Goldberg, was released in 1992, giving new meaning to the term, “protective custody” and showing the unlikely friendships that can develop when you’re pushed out of your comfort zone.

It was a bit of a sleeper hit, faring much better with audiences than critics, but it’s fair to say it cemented its place as an early 90s classic.

A sequel followed the success of the film (starring a young Lauren Hill), and more than a decade later, “Sister Act: The Musical” made its debut.

This week, Minneapolis theatergoers will have their chance to see the story live on stage. The story is similar to the tale we’ve grown to love but stars of the musical say there’s plenty of new elements to enjoy, as well.

Veteran actress Hollis Resnik plays the role of Mother Superior and was kind enough to chat with us before the show kicks off at the Orpheum Theatre on Tuesday.

Check out the full Q&A below.

——-

Obviously the film is a favorite for a lot of people. What was your initial reaction after being introduced to the story?

Well I remember seeing the movie, and I knew it was a stage musical. And to be honest, I live in Chicago. I don’t live in New York so I don’t pay a whole lot of attention but I was asked to audition for it. I knew the role was very good because I remember Maggie Smith had done it in the film. But I had not seen the stage play. And all I was sent was her two songs and a couple of scenes that she does. But I was very impressed with the material. It was very worthwhile, certainly, for me to audition for it because I knew it was a good part. I liked the story very much. I liked the message so it all sort of worked out.

How does the musical compare to the film? What’s similar, what’s different?

The stage production takes place in 1978, so it’s the disco era. So you’ll see mirror balls and sequins and all that. The film was in 1992. So quite a different time period in terms of the music — and the music for the show is completely different. It’s written by Alan Menken, who has written such wonderful things like Beauty and the Beast, he’s won Oscars, you know, very famous. So the music is very indicative of the 1978 period. But the story is basically the same. The journey of Deloris Van Cartier and Mother Superior is basically the same.

You play Mother Superior, who was played by Maggie Smith. Did you take any inspiration from the way she portrayed the character?

No, no. I had seen the movie in 1992 when it came out but I never watched it again. I never do that.

The music is obviously a big draw, as well. How do these songs come to life on stage?

Well, my songs are acting songs so I’m basically telling a story or having a conversation with God in my songs. Some of the other songs are a little more flashier, a little more choreography-driven. There’s one terrific number about getting the sisters to all sing together in tune that Deloris leads — it’s very uplifting and gospel-like, very inspirational that the audience just loves.

(credit: Joan Marcus)

(credit: Joan Marcus)

Tell us about the costumes. It seems there’s more sequins and flash for the Broadway production.

Yeah, that’s for the big finale. Everyone gets into the whole disco ball kind of feeling with the sequins. But for the most part, the nuns and well, I’m just in one habit for the whole show. The guys and Deloris might be a little more flashier but usually not the nuns. (Laughs)

How long did it take you to get used to wearing a habit?

Oh, it doesn’t take any time at all. I’m so used to it. The thing that’s hard is wearing a headpiece all the time. You have the microphone put into a certain place and then you have to have this sort of hard piece of cardboard on your head. And it has weight to it. It takes some getting used to — just imagine having a hat on your head all day. That’s all it is.

In your experiences, what have the audiences been like with this show? How have they responded?

Oh, they love it. We’re a big hit wherever we go. They’re up on their feet at the end, stamping their feet and clapping their hands. It’s a big joyful noise at the end. So we’ve had a really, really great run across the country. Audiences should come out and see it — it’s family friendly. It’s a big upbeat, joyful noise once it kicks into high gear with all the nuns singing and all the disco music. It just really takes off. We have a great group of singing nuns and a wonderful ensemble of actors and I just think everyone will enjoy it.

“Sister Act: The Musical” runs from May 27 to June 1 at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis. Tickets range from $49 to $109. For more information, check out the Hennepin Theatre Trust’s website.

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