Sold-out ‘Sister Act’ a heavenly hit for Kent County Theatre Guild

DOVER — The story of nightclub singer turned nun who hides out in a covent after witnessing a mob murder is coming to the stage this weekend as a musical version of “Sister Act” starts a sold-out run at the Kent County Theatre Guild tonight.

John Muller, the director of the show, is thrilled about directing “Sister Act,” although it wasn’t his choice.

“I stepped in after it was chosen and musicals are always fun,” he said.

“But ‘Sister Act’ is unique because it’s based off a movie that many people are familiar with and it has a diverse cast so for those reasons, I think it will be a good draw for the community because people who might not be interested in traditional musicals might be willing to come out and see this one.”

And “Sister Act” has turned out to be that draw. All six shows, which continue through next weekend, sold out earlier this week and the show has yet to premiere.

“As long as I’ve been on the board, this hasn’t happened,” said Mr. Muller of the last few seasons.

“I have a feeling the two biggest factors are that the quality of our shows has really gone up the past few years and even more of a factor, in my opinion, The Schwartz Center closing is a blow to our community, but I think it’s helped our ticket sales.”

Ashleigh Summers, playing the lead of Deloris Van Cartier turned Sister Mary Clarence, is thrilled to know she will be performing in front of packed houses at Dover’s Patchwork Playhouse for the duration of the run.

“It makes my heart warm to know that so many people are interested and willing to come out in support of community theater,” she said.

In Ms. Summers’ second show with the Kent County Theatre Guild, she snagged the lead part. She’s currently in graduate school for musical theater at Temple University.

Although successful in its own right, the stage version of “Sister Act” differs slightly from the 1992 movie starring Whoopi Goldberg, most notably with the soundtrack.

“Every song tells a story because it was adapted to be a musical and I think these songs add a new dimension to the performance,” said Keysha Martinez, playing the role of Mother Superior.

“The songs aren’t a stop point to sing a popular song like in the movie. They’re more spontaneous.”

Luckily for many of the cast members, remembering songs is easier than remembering dialogue.

“I love musicals, mostly because I love to sing and always have,” said Linda Hyler, playing the role of Sister Mary Lazarus.

“And fun upbeat songs like these are easy to remember and I don’t have to get weighed down memorizing much dialogue.”

Although “Sister Act” has been a fun journey, it has its challenges.

For Jose Bernard, the musical is a challenge because it’s the first time he’s played a villain. His character is Curtis Shank, Deloris’ deceitful ex-boyfriend.

“It’s been a great growing experience as an actor because I get to find his motivation and his hidden humanity too — because even though he’s a bad guy, there’s some good to him too,” he said.

Austin Topper plays the role of Philadelphia police lietutenant Eddie Souther who starts out as a shy character and progresses to a bold figure near the end.

“It’s been challenging and interesting to play a character that evolves so much,” he said. “But playing characters like this is what keeps acting fun and interesting.”

With the show taking place in 1978 — the height of disco — the costumes are a highlight of the performance. From the silk shirts with exaggerated collars for the men to the full sequined dress of Sister Mary Clarence and the authentic habits of the nuns, the clothing is something to remember.

The catchy songs and quick -paced story have made the musical a great experience for the whole cast.

“This show has brought out an energy in the cast I’ve never seen before,” Mr. Muller said. “I’ve directed a lot of musicals and this has to be in my top five favorite of all time.

“I’m so excited for the whole cast and crew. The only reason they perform is because they want to and their only payment is applause and I think for this show, they’ll get plenty of that.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Ashton Brown is a freelance writing living in Dover.

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