Not quite the movie

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OVATION PRODUCTIONS has reeled in the international tour of Sister Act, the hit West End and Broadway musical, based on the 1992 comedy film starring Whoopi Goldberg and Dame Maggie Smith, playing Deloris van Cartier and the Reverend Mother Superior, respectively. The film shows a down-on-her-luck nightclub singer, who, after witnessing a murder committed by her lover, is hidden via the Witness Protection Program in a convent, where, despite numerous setbacks, she helps the convent choir find their voice, and helps churchgoers fill up the seats, culminating in the Pope’s interest to see their show. As for Deloris, who had gone by the name of Sr. Mary Clarence, her lover is arrested after a thrilling shootout in Reno. The movie helped revive the 1960s pop hits “My Guy” and “I Will Follow Him,” which Sr. Mary Clarence teaches the nuns to sing, transforming the love songs into songs about one’s devotion to God.

For people who fell in love with the songs in the film, sorry, you won’t be tapping your feet to “My Guy” and “I Will Follow Him.” The musical premiered in California in 2006, with a score and lyrics by Alan Menken (of Disney fame) and Glenn Slater, after which it went on to West End and then Broadway. The current production in Manila, running until July 9, and playing at The Theatre at Solaire, is part of its first international tour, with an initial stop in Singapore, and then Manila, and going on to various Asian cities, with China as its next stop.

Jo Mcrory, General Manager of the production, talked about the changes in the musical. While the plot is essentially the same, the musical is set in the 1970s, unlike the contemporary setting of the 1992 movie. “I think it’s truer to Deloris’s character as a… singer.” She says that Mr. Menken’s work makes the music “more familiar to everybody.” “I think everyone has their understanding of ’70s music.”

There are 300 individual pieces in the production, including the nuns’ habits, which change in nature throughout the production. When asked about the costumes, Rebecca Mason-Wygal, who plays the Mother Superior, said about dancing in the habit: “It’s more difficult than you think. This thing goes all the way to your toes.” Dene Hill, who plays Deloris, said, “I just try not to fall.”

The two actresses have their own approaches to their characters.

“I grew up as an opera singer,” Ms. Hill pointed out.“Although between growing up in church and listening to soul and singing gospel, I have a lyric soprano voice, and so I would say both of those worlds. I think I bring that newness of soul and the meat of the soprano out in this character.”

For her part, Ms. Mason-Wygal prepared by studying literature on the life of nuns. “As I’m not a Catholic myself, I had a lot to learn.”

BusinessWorld joined other media outlets on a backstage tour last week. While The Phantom of the Opera had a chandelier, and Wicked had The Clock of the Time Dragon, Sister Act’s iconic piece is a 16-foot reversible statue of the Virgin Mary. While one face shows a standard Blue and White, her face for the disco-themed finale is bedazzled with little mirrors — an indication of the funny and bouncy show later that night. — Joseph L. Garcia