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Sister Act brings heavenly voices to Vernon stage

Lights of Broadway presents the film-turned-musical for Mother’s Day weekend

A bunch of nuns will get the rafters ringing at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre when the film-turned-stage musical Sister Act takes the stage May 12 and 13.

Presented by the Center Stage Performing Arts Academy’s Lights of Broadway (LOB), Sister Act will see more than 30 student performers from ages 12 to 18 perform 17 song and dance numbers, wearing everything from nun habits to ‘70s glam outfits.

The local musical theatre troupe is led by Charity Van Gameren, who has been producing and directing annual productions for 22 years.

“Our shows have become a Mother’s Day weekend tradition for many Okanagan theatre goers and gives audiences a chance to take in live theatre again.”

A hilarious story of friendship, love, hopes, dreams and string of disco songs that will have audiences’ toes tapping, Sister Act started as a 1992 blockbuster film starring Whoopi Goldberg, Harvey Keitel, Maggie Smith, and a cast of singing nuns. With a subsequent sequel (and a third movie reported to hit the silver screen in the near future), the original film was developed into a musical, with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Glenn Slater, and made its appearance on Broadway in 2011, scoring several Tony nominations, including Best Musical.

Set in 1977 Philadelphia, Sister Act follows lounge singer Deloris Van Cartier, who is trying to make her dreams of becoming the next disco sensation into a reality by performing at her gangster boyfriend’s nightclub. Unfortunately, Deloris accidently witnesses her boyfriend, Curtis, and his crew commit a murder and after escaping, she is put into a witness protection program — at a convent. As part of her cover, Deloris disguises herself as a nun and despite the Mother Superior’s objections, ends up directing the sisters’ choir, eventually turning them from a tone-deaf group into disco singing sensations.

Joining director Van Gameren in getting a bunch of nuns and gangsters singing, dancing and acting is choreographer Cherise McInnes, acting coach Sarah Mori Jones, and accompanist and choral coach Heidi Hewitt, who is new to LOB this year.

“It is a massive team effort and having the support from families within Lights of Broadway is an integral part of our year-to-year success and we are all truly thankful for them,” said Van Gameren.

Playing the lead in Sister Act is especially bittersweet for actor May Stanley, as it marks the end of her 10-year journey studying musical theatre with Van Gameren.

“I can’t really put into words how much LOB has meant to me. My biggest takeaway would be the impact that Charity, Sarah and Cherise have had on me. They are such important women in my life. I’ve learned so much from them,” said Stanley, who looks forward to putting her own spin on Deloris.

“Deloris is such a fun character. She is wild and obnoxious and confident, although that has also made her challenging. I really love her character development throughout the show. It’s been really fun to dig into her background and understand why she acts the way she does in the beginning.”

Stanley is especially looking forward to her two favourite numbers in the show, I Could Be That Guy and Take Me to Heaven with the nuns.

They are both really entertaining. I also love the dancing in Eddie’s song, and that a bunch of different characters get to sing solos. Sister Act has amazing music, so many ridiculous characters, and a really lovely message about friendship underneath all the wild action,” she said.

Kady Brandel, another longtime LOB performer who graduates this year, says her favourite memory of performing with the musical theatre troupe has to be the community built over doing shows.

“We all become so close with each other. We form a little family, and that connection has meant so much to me over the years,” said Brandel, who plays Mother Superior.

“She’s a different type of character than I have portrayed in the past, so getting to try something different has been really exciting for me,” Brandel said, adding her favourite song from Sister Act has to be Spread the Love Around.

“It’s the big ensemble number at the end of the show, and it’s really fun to get to sing and dance with the entire cast in such an upbeat song,” she said.

Aiden Jordan, who has been studying voice and musical theatre with Van Gameren since he was five years old, says he also considers LOB as family.

“It’s a very comfortable place for me. I can be a better version of myself there,” said the now 18-year-old. “I love my castmates and they have each put so much work into their characters, especially Kady and May. All their skills have been honed this year. Charity and the team have also taught me things that are invaluable.”

As Eddie, Jordan gets to perform a fun number that kickstarts his character arc, but his favourite song has to be When I Find My Baby, which is performed by the gangster Curtis.

“It’s like the intersection of an upbeat jazzy song and has the darkest topics, plus Curtis’ posse is very funny in it. This is a very funny show and I know audiences are going to love it.”

Sister Act takes the stage at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m. Tickets are $39 for adults and $36 for seniors and students, and can be purchased at the Ticket Seller box office, 250-549-7469,

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Jennifer Smith

About the Author: Jennifer Smith

Vernon has always been my home, and I've been working at The Morning Star since 2004.
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