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Movie-inspired musical that's almighty fun

By Chen Nan | China Daily | Updated: 2017-08-26 07:16

The award-winning musical, Sister Act, which is based on the 1992 comedy film of the same title starring Whoopi Goldberg, opened in Beijing on Aug 18 and will run till Sept 3.

Written by Bill and Cheri Steinkellner with additional book material by Douglas Carter Beane, Sister Act has original lyrics by Tony Awards nominee Glenn Slater and music by eight-time Academy Award winner Alan Menken.

Originally co-produced by Goldberg herself, the musical version of Sister Act premiered in 2006 at the Pasadena Playhouse in Pasadena, California and opened in 2009 at London's West End before being revised for Broadway in 2011.

According to the musical's China touring manager, Yang Jie, who introduced the cast to Beijing's audiences on Aug 18, the musical is on its second tour of Asia, which began in Singapore this May. In 2015, the production kicked off an Asian tour, including a three-week run in Japan, but it didn't come to China.

 Movie-inspired musical that's almighty fun

After the Beijing stop, Sister Act will visit other Chinese cities, including Shanghai and Hangzhou, throughout October. Photos Provided to China Daily

"The success of our Asian tour in 2015 gave us lots of confidence about this China tour," says Yang, adding that the shows in Guangzhou and Shenzhen between July 26 to Aug 13 were very popular. After the Beijing stop, the musical will visit other Chinese cities, including Shanghai and Hangzhou, throughout October.

"Essentially the musical production retains the film's plot. What makes it different is the music," Yang adds.

Sister Act tells the story of a disco diva in late 1970s Philadelphia, Deloris Van Cartier, who hides out in a convent after witnessing her gangster boyfriend being killed.

"Thanks to Alan Menken, we have colorful songs, mostly disco-inspired, 60s' Motown classics and a little bit of funk and soul as well as standard Broadway sounds," says Christopher Babbage, the music director and conductor of the musical, who started working as an associate conductor with the musical in 2012. "Alan Menken is really good at bringing together a variety of contemporary styles, which don't necessarily belong to the period the show is set."

"The songs in the musical are timeless, and help to tell the story," Babbage adds.

Babbage has been working in the theater field for 18 years and worked with composer Alan Menken on a number of beloved Disney films, such as Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid and Aladdin.

"Though Sister Act movie was for adults, this musical, like Disney musical productions, is family friendly and full of enthusiasm and energy," Babbage says.

In interviews at the media preview in Beijing, New York-based soprano Dene Hill, who plays the role of Deloris Van Cartier, and Will T. Travis, who plays the role of Lieutenant Eddie Souther, performed the songs Sister Act and I Could Be That Guy.

"This is one of my favorite musicals, it is so much fun and involves powerful music, outrageous dancing and a truly moving story. My role, Eddie Souther, was not seen as a love interest in the movie. The musical gives him layers to show that he is in love with Deloris Van Cartier and wants to protect her," says Travis.

"The movie is a pretty strong base to start with. I grew up watching the movie and I love the music," says American theater actress Rebecca Mason-Wygal who plays the role of the Mother Superior, adding, "To prepare for the role, I read lots of books about nuns and convents."

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