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BWW Previews: SISTER ACT THE MUSICAL at State Theatre, New Brunswick

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This December the national tour of SISTER ACT THE MUSICAL is coming to the Garden State with stops in New Brunswick and Morristown. First up, the show will play the historic State Theatre in New Brunswick for three performances on December 12th and 13th. The SISTERs then swing back through New Jersey to perform at the Mayo Center for the Performing Arts in Morristown on January 31st and February 1st.

SISTER ACT THE MUSICAL is based on the 1992 film starring Whoopi Goldberg, although the role of lounge singer on the lam Deloris Van Cartier was originally intended for Bette Midler. The film's cast also featured Kathy Nijimy as Sister Mary Patrick and Maggie Smith as Mother Superior. Dame Maggie has since gone on to win hearts as the tart-tongued Dowager Countess in DOWNTON ABBEY. If Mary Wickes (Sister Mary Lazarus) looks at home in her wimple and veil it is because she also played a nun in the films THE TROUBLE WITH ANGELS and WHERE ANGELS GO TROUBLE FOLLOWS. Theatre fans might spot Beth Fowler who originated the role of Mrs. Potts in BEAUTY AND THE BEAST on Broadway. Fowler is currently playing a nun in the hit Netflix series ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK. Other Broadway vets rounding out the original movie's convent choir include Prudence Wright Holmes (THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA), Susan Johnson (THE MOST HAPPY FELLA), Ruth Kobart (A FUNNY THING HAPPENED...FORUM), and Susan Browning (Tony nominee for COMPANY).

    A movie about a nightclub singer hiding out in a convent isn't as far fetched an idea as it might at first seem. While Paul Rudnick (I HATE HAMLET) was writing the screenplay he went to stay at the Regina Laudis Abbey in Bethlehem, Connecticut. The Prioress of this convent was Mother Dolores Hart, who before she took the vows had been in such movie musicals KING CREOLE and WHERE THE BOYS ARE. As is usual in Hollywood, the film was rewritten several times by scribes like Robert Harling (STEEL MAGNOLIAS) and Carrie Fisher (WISHFUL DRINKING) so Rudnick decided he would prefer to be billed as 'Joseph Howard' instead.

    With all these amazing ties to the Great White Way, it seemed natural that SISTER ACT the motion picture should become SISTER ACT THE MUSICAL. A brand new score was written by Tony and Oscar winning composer Alan Menken (NEWSIES) with lyrics by Glenn Slater, who previously partnered with Menken on the stage version of THE LITTLE MERMAID. Coincidentally, Slater was raised in East Brunswick, not far from the State Theatre, the tour's first New Jersey stop. The book for the show was written by Cheri and Bill Steinkellner with additional material by playwright Douglas Carter Beane (XANADU).

    The long journey to Broadway started in 2006 at Pasadena Playhouse, where the leading role of Deloris was played by Dawnn Lewis. The production then moved to Atlanta's Alliance Theatre. Instead of proceeding directly to Broadway, the show chose to play London's West End first. It opened in June 2009 with Patina Miller (who understudied Lewis in the States) playing Deloris. Whoopi Goldberg joined the cast as the Reverend Mother for a brief period before the show closed in October 2010. Six months later SISTER ACT THE MUSICAL opened on Broadway, with Jerry Zaks assuming the director's chair. Miller recreated her role and was joined by Victoria Clarke (Tony winner for THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA) as Reverend Mother. The show received five Tony Award nominations and ran for 561 performances at the Broadway Theatre.

    With Goldberg as lead producer, the show has gone on to international success in ten different countries, with several more scheduled worldwide. The US National Tour of SISTER ACT THE MUSICAL reunites the original creative team and stars Kerissa Arrington as Deloris and Maggie Clennon Reberg as Mother Superior. The heavenly ensemble also features Jersey girl Tara Tagliaferro as Sister Mary Martin-of-Tours. Tara grew up in Middlesex County (home of the State Theatre) and attended Montclair State College. The tour spans cities from Miami to Anchorage, concluding in May 2015.

    For tickets and information visit www.StateTheatreNJ.org or call 732-246-7469. The State Theatre will offer free pre-show Insights before each performance. Insights will feature lots more show background, a 'Name That Nun' Trivia Contest, and maybe even a visit from one of the sisters in the act! For tickets or information for SISTER ACT at the Mayo Center for the Performing Arts visit www.mayoarts.org or call 973-539-8008.


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