BWW Interview: Megan Opalinski of SISTER ACT at Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre
Sister Act lights up the stage at Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre starting on September 20th. Broadway World had an opportunity to get the inside scoop from actress Megan Opalinski, who can be seen portraying the rapping sister, Sister Mary Lazarus.
BWW: Tell us a little about yourself
Opalinski: Well, I grew up in Western PA in a little town named Latrobe (home of Mr. Rogers, Arnold Palmer, AND the first banana split). I went to Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, where I studied opera and musical theatre. I then worked in "the real world" for 2 years as a youth and family minister in North Carolina before moving to NYC to attend The American Musical and Dramatic Academy. I lived off and on in the city for 12 years, until I was out of the city for work more often than I was in it. Now I (thankfully) have basically been hopping from job to job.
I love all forms of yoga, biking, hiking, reading, kayaking, cooking and baking, animals, and traveling (especially internationally...I have been to 43 countries, I believe). I also love sampling local beer and coffee places whenever I can. I play flute, piano, violin, and guitar.
BWW: What is your favorite role to date?
Opalinski: I just played The Drowsy Chaperone in The Drowsy Chaperone this summer at Maples Repertory Theatre in Missouri, and that was definitely a ton of fun and a dream role for me. The production was AMAZING! I also had a lot of fun playing Rosie in Mamma Mia there this summer. My other favorite would have to be Penelope Pennywise in Urinetown. I played it about 12 years ago and would love to do it again.
BWW: I understand you have performed in Sister Act before--what first appealed to you about the show and why did you want to do it again?
Opalinski: I did the second national tour of Sister Act for 9 months and the international tour (Singapore, Philippines, China, Japan, and South Korea) for 9 months. I had such fun seeing our beautiful country and the world.
Of course, I loved the movie Sister Act. My good friend Mike saw the musical in London, before it came to Broadway, and he said "Megan, this is your show. You are perfect for it!" I didn't really know any of the music, since it is all very different from the movie. I was actually performing in a production of The Music Man in Florida when auditions were happening in NYC. They were still looking for someone to fulfill the role of Mother Superior, so I sent my headshot and resume to the casting company. They immediately emailed me back and had me prepare and record a TON of material for not only Mother Superior, but for Mary Martin of Tours, Mary Theresa, and the ensemble. They liked what they saw, so I flew up for an audition with the creative team. Then, a few weeks later, I went back in for more of the creative team, and they asked me to do the Mary Lazarus material at that time, as well as dance. Later that day I was offered a role in ensemble, covering the roles of Mother Superior and Mary Lazarus.
I was very lucky to have worked with the original creative team who put up the show on Broadway, in London, and the first national tour. Including TONY award winning director, Jerry Zaks and Alan Menken's right-hand man Michael Kosarin. It was a wonderful experience working with folks who knew the show inside and out and absolutely loved it. Everyone expected a lot and we delivered. We even used a lot of costumes, set pieces, and props from those productions.
I wanted to do the show again because I love the story of sisterhood and loving each other and spreading that love despite our differences. And the music is such fun to sing. It is set in the 70s in Philadelphia, so the music has a lot of disco and soul elements to it.
BWW: In your opinion, which song in the show is the biggest crowd pleaser and why?
Opalinski: I think "Raise Your Voice" is always a big crowd pleaser. It shows the nuns growing in their singing over "the passing of time", and at the end they let loose and there is just a wall of joyful sound.
"Spread the Love", the last song, is another great moment, as we make a change from our normal habits into something more indicative of the disco era (I won't ruin the surprise).
BWW: What is the most challenging part of the show and/or your particular role?
Opalinski: Before, it was having three sets of lines, music, and choreography in my head and body; my track and the two I understudied. Like, I would go on for Mother Superior on a matinee, Laz at night, back to Mother Superior the next and maybe my "normal" track the day after that. I have a gift for compartmentalizing and keeping things in order, but it can still be difficult. I'm excited to just concentrate on one (although, I'm also understudying Mother Superior at the Dutch Apple)
Also, I'm definitely a mover, not a dancer, so I had to practice all of choreography outside of rehearsal, over and over, in order to get into muscle memory in my body.
BWW: What is your favorite thing about playing Sister Mary Lazarus?
Opalinski: Definitely the RAP! It's such fun to dress up and rap as "cool Laz". Anytime I went on for Laz the guys from our show would be watching in the wings, so I took that as the highest compliment.
I also love the choir scene before "Raise Your Voice"...especially when I quiet the nuns.
BWW: Prior to doing this role in Sister Act, have you ever had to rap on stage before? If so, tell us a little about that experience; if not, was there anything special you did to learn how to rap for the role?
Opalinski: Nope. I had never rapped on stage before (although I joke that my character Alma Hix, in The Music Man, has a bit of rap in "Pick a Little, Talk a Little"). In fact, I didn't even do the rap in my aforementioned callbacks...I guess they just had faith that I could do it. Saying Sanctifunkadelicorgasmitron is hard! I just kept practicing and tried to have as much fun as possible with it.
I will say, that when I was in elementary school and junior high I was known for rapping "Ice, Ice Baby". I maaaaay still do it on occasion.
BWW: In Act 1 the choir has to sound terrible. It must be difficult for musicians to sound bad. Tell us what it's like to learn how to sound terrible.
Opalinski: It's actually a lot of fun, but it is kind of difficult. You want to make sure that you don't sound too intentionally bad, but also not good, of course. Our music director on tour was amazing, and he said "You still do the rhythms correctly and pronounce the Latin correctly, it's just the notes that are a little off and completely joyless. But don't be *too* bad, making a joke out of it."
BWW: What's your favorite part of the show?
Opalinski: As an ensemble member in was "Raise Your Voice", when we start layering and building on the end of it. I also love "Bless Our Show". It is such a sweet song of sisterhood.
As Mary Lazarus, it's the Rap and choir room scene.
As Mother Superior it was singing "I Haven't Got a Prayer". It's such a powerful song to sing and act.
Just sitting back and enjoying, I loved listening to "When I Find My Baby", and the first time I saw the thugs perform "Lady in the Long Black Dress" during a rehearsal, I laughed so hard. I didn't know the song at all, and it is absolutely hilarious.
BWW: If Sister Mary Lazarus hadn't become a nun, what would her career be?
Opalinski: Drill Sergeant, for sure.
BWW: Why should our readers come to see Sister Act at Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre?
Opalinski: If you are looking to feel good and leave your cares for 2ish hours, I can't think of better way to do that, than by watching Sister Act The Musical. You'll love the music, the story, the characters, the costumes. It isn't the same music you know from the movie, which initially disappoints some people, but I promise you, it's even better.
With all of the divisiveness in the world and our country right now, it is wonderful to see the story of women from different backgrounds supporting each other and caring for one another so selflessly. Maybe we can all be inspired to "Spread the Love" just a little bit more.
Sister Act runs September 20 through November 10 at Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre. For tickets, visit www.dutchapple.com.