By Christian Jenner,
Irving Stage Company.
For a convent girl, there is nothing quite like climbing into a nun’s habit for the first time. This School of Jesus and Mary girl (Ipswich 1972-1977) has donned her first wimple to take part in Irving Stage Company’s production of Sister Act, at Theatre Royal from 31 Oct to 4 Nov.
Having directed Atlanta-born Tess Buis as Laurey in Oklahoma! this spring, I am now on the receiving end of her insightful direction in this comedy musical based on the well-known 1992 film, Sister Act. Watching Tess and the creative team so hard at work, with so much preparation involved, I always think it’s a bit unfair that the performers on stage get all the applause.
Our team has a great pedigree, Tess completed a four-year musical theatre degree in her native USA and despite her youth has a lot of professional experience. Choreographer Glen Conner trained for three years at Doreen Bird College and has had a long, varied career in professional theatre and beyond. We have a new musical director Nicola Brazier, recently relocated to Suffolk from Sussex, who is a Royal College of Music graduate with a wealth of experience.
A number of our cast members are also professionally trained, but there is one thing I am a particular expert in – nunliness. When it comes to how they dress, pray, walk, give the death stare … no one can touch me! I went to a convent school at two and-a-half and graduated from a Catholic foundation college when I was 21. Oh yes, all my formative years were (to adapt a song title from the show) spent with the Ladies in the Long Black Dresses. A universally happy experience for me I must admit, and for quite a few of those years I saw myself “taking the veil” and living out my life in the silent wax-polished cloisters with the marble statues and lighted candles of my youth.
But being the loopy Sister Mary Martin-of-Tours (“in her own little world”) is as close as I have come to it in reality, and what a joy it is to now be bopping away with my stage sisters to some of the best show tunes I have ever sung. Our first run-through had us all in tears of laughter, it’s really is a funny show, and then in tears of real emotion as showgirl Deloris Van Cartier found her dream of stardom was nothing to her place in the sisterhood. Toe-tapping, heart-warming, spirit lifting – these words are so often used to describe a show, and with Sister Act, it promises to be all that and more.
Sister Act runs from Tue 31 Oct – Sat 4 Nov, contact the Box Office on 01284 769505 or click https://www.theatreroyal.org/shows/sister-act/ to book online.