The latest musical hitting the Roxy stage was made for Owen Sound Little Theatre.
Sister Act, the musical based on the hit 1992 film starring Whoopi Goldberg, will open in Owen Sound tonight, launching the OSLT’s 59th annual playbill.
And veteran director Corry Lapointe can’t wait for the show’s run to start, as she knew the production was one that would suit the talented actors at the disposal of the amateur theatre company.
“I didn’t know that I had everybody, but you really cross your fingers,” Lapointe said Tuesday prior to the final dress rehearsal.
“I had to know that there were at least two or three that are out there, that if they didn’t come out on their own initiative, I would have to go and chase them.”
But in the end, Lapointe had nothing to worry about, as a wide range of local talent came out to auditions, got the parts and are now ready for showtime.
“They are really, really anxious for an audience,” said Lapointe. “That is the missing element.”
Along with OSLT veteran Lacey Mooney in the lead role of Deloris Van Cartier, there is a large cast that includes OSLT regulars, newbies, and some who have been behind the scene for years but are now coming out onto the stage.
Veteran Colleen Martin plays Mother Superior “beautifully,” while other familiar faces include Jamie Smith, Ben Davidson, Cory Laycock, James Moyse, Kathleen Cassidy, Rosemary Buchanan, Sandra Lemaitre, Donna Fisher-Potter and Nancy-Jean Lahn.
Some newer faces include youngster Georgia Rutter, Dan Herrick, who made his debut in Shorthanded earlier this year, and a number of the actresses playing nuns.
There are also some actors playing multiple roles, like Emma McConachie-Anderson and Julia Bittorf, as well as swings Jasmine Brough, Mark Vigneux and Michael Tettenborn.
“We have a good lot of new and old,” said Lapointe.
Though she had never seen the musical herself, Lapointe knew it was one she wanted to do based on a number of criteria – it is popular, appeals to most, is highly entertaining, challenging, has great music and most importantly tells a great story. When the rights were opened up to amateur groups a couple of years ago, she jumped on the chance to secure it for OSLT.
“I went after it and got it right away,” said Lapointe.
The musical comedy, which premiered in 2006 in Pasadena, Calif., follows the story of lounge singer Deloris Van Cartier, played by Mooney, now appearing in her 18th production with the theatre group.
Van Cartier is forced to join a convent when she is placed in a witness protection program after stumbling upon a murder. As Sister Mary Clarence, she struggles to adapt to life in the convent, eventually befriending some of the nuns and then joining the choir. With her background in music, Van Cartier takes over direction of the choir, teaching the nuns how to sing better, drawing praise from parishioners and visitors. They help to transform the rundown neighbourhood of the convent, but eventually Van Cartier’s cover is blown, putting her life in danger again.
Lapointe said the musical follows the plot of the film, but develops the story more.
“The characters are more realized in this, especially their relationships, and the music is fabulous – high energy with some very beautiful ballads thrown in here and there,” said Lapointe. “And the story has more depth with a great deal of humour, but it invokes a tear or two as well, which is going to be a surprise to people.”
To take care of the music, Lapointe has experienced musical director Don Buchanan at her side.
Buchanan said both he and Lapointe knew that the actors would be able to handle the music of the show.
“We have a wonderful choral group of ladies that we felt, if we got all the right folks out, we could cover the nun chorus, which is huge in this show,” said Buchanan. “And the thugs were guys we thought would work in well too, so just the way the whole cast came together was sort of built for our community.”
Buchanan said most musicals have challenges, and Sister Act is no different.
“You had the nuns having to learn the Gregorian chant in Latin and then turn around and sing in a gospel feel and then get into the disco groove,” said Buchanan. “Then the guys have fairly close three-part harmony things that get thrown at them and also they are challenged with their ranges as they are doing falsetto like the Bee Gees.
“It has been challenges everywhere you look, but in a great way and they have met those challenges beautifully.”
Lapointe said there were other challenges with moving so many bodies around in the restricted space of the Roxy stage, and set designer Paul Nicholson has designed props in a way that they can have multiple uses in order to maximize space.
“We have challenged the crew and they have met that challenge,” Lapointe said. “It is a brilliant set. It doesn’t look like much out there, until it becomes animated.”
Lapointe said one part of the production she is particularly proud of is that she decided not to have a choreographer with the show, and directed the movements during the music herself. She then had cast members Lemaitre and Fisher-Potter – both musical veterans — do the “coaching and the tweaking.”
“What I am proud of is that it actually works, because I am not a great dancer,” said Lapointe. “I am certainly not a choreographer, but it tells the story and I am proud of that because it was risky.”
As equally important as a strong cast is a strong crew, and Lapointe said she has that with the production. Lisa Miller is her “right hand” as stage manager, while others involved in the show include producer Cathie Locke, Joan Spence on wardrobe, Bill Murphy on lighting, Debbie Morris on props, Kasey Williams on hair, Wendy Smart on make-up and dozens of others.
“Without all of them and their crew there is no production,” said Lapointe. “Our cast is taking a special bow for them and the audience will be able to see them do that. They are really unsung heroes.”
Lapointe admitted there were times that she thought they were taking on a bigger bite than they could chew, but eventually it came together and the cast and crew are more than ready for an audience.
“I can’t wait to see the audience receive this play,” said Lapointe. “They are going to have a blast.”
Tickets have already been selling well for the production, which runs Nov. 7-9, 13-16 and 20-23, and Lapointe attributes that to the story’s popularity.
She said everyone should love the production.
“If it is a brand new story to you and you have never seen the movie, you are going to love it, and children are going to love it,” said Lapointe. “It is so entertaining at its core and high, high energy.”