Based on the iconic movie, Sister Act The Musical is a tribute to the universal power of friendship, sisterhood and music tells the hilarious story of the disco diva whose life takes a surprising turn when she witnesses a murder. Under protective custody she is hidden in the one place she won’t be found – a convent! Disguised as a nun and under the suspicious watch of Mother Superior, Deloris helps her fellow sisters find their voices as she unexpectedly rediscovers her own.
Sandra Martin, shares some thoughts on the production that is calling into Plymouth.
You have a career that spans both stage and screen, from big hit musicals (Waitress) to TV Soaps (Emmerdale). What are the key differences between the disciplines of stage and screen, and do you have a preference?
I’ve loved working both TV and theatre and have really enjoyed both experiences.
With theatre though, it’s all live and right before you. The emotion of the actor on stage is what they are living at that particular moment. Your experience as an audience member is specific to what you personally view at any given moment, if you’re watching who’s speaking or who’s reacting. And the energy! The energy pouring off the stage from performers, from the moment you hear the first bars of the entr’acte being played, it’s incredible. For me the response from the audience is immediate, unedited and in the moment. It’s very much a shared experience between the performers and audience.
Sister Act is a much-loved movie as well as a musical. Were you aware of the show before you joined?
I have vivid memories of the film as it was a family favourite! We’d sit and watch all together and we’d always laugh at Whoopie’s antics with the nuns. I’d recite all of her dialogue, singing out with all the nuns and try and learn their routines! It was definitely an interactive experience watching Sister Act with me as a kid! When I first heard about the stage show, I was dying to audition but at the time I was in the middle of my contract with Hairspray playing Miss Motormouth Maybelle, so there was no chance of being available. When I watched it, I was blown away! The humour and the music, it was such a brilliant tribute to a film I loved so much!
Is there another movie from your youth that you would love to see adapted into a musical?
Ooh, so many of my favourites have been done already – The Color Purple, The Wedding Singer, The Lion King. I’m not sure. Maybe Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion!
Can you briefly summarise the plot and tell us about your character, Deloris Van Cartier?
Deloris Van Cartier is a singer, trying to get a gig as a professional singer in the late 70’s in Philadelphia. She’s dating local gangster, Curtis whom she hopes will give her big break at his club, when she witnesses a murder and has to be taken into police protection in a nunnery…. with a bunch of strict catholic nuns! Whilst there she finds herself and her community where she least expects it!
Deloris has a dream of being like her idol Donna Summer singing on a stage but fears it might be too late for her. I love playing her! She is a dream of a role. Her humour, her energy. I love her drive and that in any situation she has the courage and confidence to be authentically, unapologetically herself, “Deloris”. This is also hilarious to play, especially opposite Lesley Joseph as the Mother Superior!
Some incredible talents have played Deloris, from Whoopi Goldberg on screen, to Alexandra Burke, and most recently Beverley Knight. How does it feel to be part of the production, and what do you bring to the role to make it your own?
I’d say my Deloris obviously celebrates the wonderful music as written Alan Menken, but I really enjoy playing with Deloris’ humour and her quick-thinking energy. Whoopie’s Deloris always has me in stiches! She’s a hustler, astute, keeps moving, and always has a plan, but is also funny as hell! That’s the side of Deloris I enjoy playing.
Sister Act The Musical features a fabulous score by the multi award-winning Alan Menken (Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid). How would you describe the soundtrack, and do you have a favourite number to perform and/or watch?
Sister Act is set in the late 70s in an era where Disco was dominating the dance floors and Studio 54 was definitely the place to be seen. Alan Menken clearly pays homage to all of the fabulous the disco divas of that era. His songs are reminiscent of Donna Summer, Cheryl Lynn, The Stylistics, Bee Gees and so many more of our Disco favourites. You can’t help but dance to this music and every night we’ve seen audiences up on their feet dancing in the aisles! My personal favourite to perform is probably ‘Fabulous Baby’ but to watch, definitely ‘Lady in the Long Black Dress!’ It’s a smooth Barry White Meets Stylistics number. Bradley Judge, Tom Hopcroft and Damien Buhagiar who perform this number are not only hilarious, but their harmonies and vocals are so smooth! It’s a wonder! Always a favourite for me! But also watch out for Lizzie Bea playing Sister Mary Robert who has a DIVINE vocal (see what I did there!).
What do you hope audiences take away from this new production?
Sister Act is about finding your community and finding and realising your dreams. It just has so much heart and joy. Audiences with be moved by the journeys of the characters one moment but crying with laughter the next. It is simply joyous!
Are there any stops on the tour that you’re particularly looking forward to – a connection to the area? A fun anecdote to share?
I’m very excited to be bringing sister Act to Plymouth. I was last there this year with Waitress and the audiences were incredible! We had such an amazing time!
Top image: Sandra Marvin ‘Deloris Van Cartier’. Photo by Manuel Harlan
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