Raise Your Voice with 'Sister Act' at MSP

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deloris with the sister act nuns

Raise your voice with “Sister Act” the Broadway musical, July 7-16, at Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s McLeod Summer Playhouse. This hilarious stage adaptation of the 1992 film starring Whoopi Goldberg tells the story of a third-rate lounge singer who hides out in a convent after witnessing a gangland killing. Once there, she brings her unique “voice” to the nuns’ choir and shapes them into a singing sensation that revitalizes a disappearing congregation. SIH Medical Group sponsors the production.

The original musical score -- with great rhythm and blues and disco influences -- is composed by Alan Menken. Menken also composed the music for shows including “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Little Mermaid.” He is a multiple Tony, Grammy and Academy Award winner. The show has lyrics by Glenn Slater.

J. Thomas Kidd, managing artistic director, is directing the McLeod Summer Playhouse (MSP) production, with Darryl Kent Clark, who teaches musical theater dance for SIU Theater, supplying the frisky choreography. Kevin A. Smith serves as musical director for the rousing score. Sets are designed by Ron Naversen, with costumes by Kristina Sneshkoff and lighting by Will Coeur. Local celebrity Brandyn McGhee designs the sound.

There are many reasons to shout about this production; one of them is the superlative cast. MSP company members play the slamming nuns, each of them a star. Shelby Terrell (Cinderella/Pinkalicious) is postulant Sister Mary Robert. Bailey Vincent (Little Red Riding Hood) is novice Sister Mary Patrick. Lindsay Manson (The Witch), Danae DeShazer (The Baker’s Wife) and Mikayla Cohen (Rapunzel) are Sister Mary Lazarus, Sister Mary Martin-of-Tours and Sister Mary Theresa.

Chicago-area veteran actress Jane Brewer returns to MSP play the resistant Mother Superior. Brewer appeared as Little Mary Sunshine and more recently in “Mid-Life! The Crisis Musical”

Raising the roof at the convent is SIU musical theater student Alexis Nwokoji in the starring role of Deloris Van Cartier, the diamond-in-the-rough, on-the-lam lounge singer. Local audiences will remember her show-stopping turn as Mama Noah in last year’s SIU Theater production of “Children of Eden.” Her breakout performance alone will make you a believer.

Featured also are Asia Ward and Mikayla Cohen as Tina and Michelle, Deloris’ pre-convent back-up lounge singers.

On the shady-side of the story is Curtis Jackson, the “I’m-gonna-make-you-a-star” gangster ex-boyfriend, played by Casey Gulledge (Mysterious Man). His thugs, TJ, Joey, and Pablo are played by Aaron Chancellor Gilmer (Jack), Steven Rochet (Rapunzel’s Prince) and Malik Van Hoozer-Elliott (The Wolf). Jonathan Steffins (Cinderella’s Prince) plays thug-turned-police-informant murder-victim, Ernie.

The hero is investigating police officer Eddie Souther, whose job to protect Deloris turns to love. Eddie Ortega (The Baker) brings his talent to the role.

In a great supporting role, Bart Phillip Williams, on faculty at Southeast Missouri State University, returns to MSP to play the “save-the-convent-fundraising” Monsignor O’Hara. Williams was King Arthur in MSP’s “Spamalot.”

Musical theater students Bryce Beliveau, Jake Ellsworth, Andrew Lampley, Josh Miller, Madison Pruitt, Michael Radford, Michael Sigillito, Jonathan Steffins, and Emily Turner bring their substantial talents to the ensemble of the production.

“Sister Act” performances are July 7-9 and July 14-16. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday in McLeod Theater, located in the Communications Building on the SIU Carbondale campus.

Tickets are $30 for adults, $14 for students and $10 for children, and are available online at playhouse.siu.edu. Tickets also are available from noon to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding holidays, by telephone at 618/453-6000 or in person at the McLeod Theater or SIU Arena box offices. Some fees apply to online and telephone orders.

After the first Saturday performance, July 8, there will be a talk with cast members and audiences. Interested persons and youth groups are encouraged to participate and may access a promo code for a special lower ticket price on the playhouse website under the shows and events/special events page.

Sister Act - Delores with sunglasses

Sister Act nuns covering ears

Delores from Sister Act in sequin dress