Carlton Operatic Society’s President recently commented that he recalled watching the Society, based in Nottingham, as a young child and being charged one shilling (about 5p) to watch the annual performance in a local hall.
Moving forward to 1965, ticket prices had continued to rise, reaching the lofty heights of five shillings (25p) by the late 60s with production costs of around £600. A move to the Nottingham Playhouse in 1986 provided the society with a fabulous theatrical venue that gave them a home up to 2013.
Theatre Royal Nottingham
Wednesday 28 – Saturday 31 May 2014
In May 2014, Carlton Operatic Society starts a new chapter in its 93-year history by again moving venue to the Theatre Royal Nottingham, presenting the smash hit musical SISTER ACT. They will be one of only 25 amateur societies selected to perform the show in 2014 and the first to do so in the East Midlands.
The show, based on the 1992 film, tells the hilarious story of Deloris Van Cartier (a character made famous by Whoopi Goldberg), a wannabe diva whose life takes a surprising turn when she witnesses a crime and the cops hide her in the last place anyone would think of – a convent! A cautious Mother Superior encourages Deloris to help find the voices of her fellow sisters with outrageous sparkling results.
Amanda Hall directs this spectacular show. “It really is a joy to rehearse,” says Amanda, “We have a fantastic cast that are working so hard to learn so many lyrics and dance moves.” The production team also includes Christopher Rees, musical director, and Lisa Lee, choreographer. “The sound being produced already takes the roof off,” Amanda continues, “there is such a contrast of songs from the beautiful solos and duets, to the faster numbers such as ‘Take Me To Heaven’ and ‘Sunday Morning Fever’ which finds the rapping Sister Mary Lazarus (Jackie Dunn) going for it much to the disgust of Mother Superior (Sarah Warnsby).”
Whilst the stage production features the well-known and gripping story from the film, the songs are completely original. Chris Rees said, “With music written by Alan Menken and lyrics by Glenn Slater the score is exciting and varied and will leave the audience with many new memorable songs to sing.”
Choreographer Lisa Lee is new to Carlton, “From the first dance workshop before the auditions I have been very impressed with the speed at which the cast have learnt their moves.” Lisa said, “There is a lot of ‘arm-ography’ for the nuns, as their legs are covered, which can be very hard work but has to be identical. Every rehearsal is great fun and we are producing a superb show that I know everyone who sees it will agree.”
The story sees Deloris Van Cartier (Monique Henry) witness a murder by her gangster boyfriend Curtis Jackson (Lyndon Warnsby) and his crew – made up of nephew TJ (Mark Coffey-Bainbridge), Joey (Liam Hall) & Pablo (Nigel Newton). Horrified, Deloris runs to the police station and the desk of Officer Eddie Souther (Ray McLeod). The two recognise each other as old friends from school. Eddie decides Deloris needs protection and sends her to a convent.
Joining the other nuns for dinner, Deloris is introduced as Sister Mary Clarence and meets the comedic and overly perky Sister Mary Patrick (Laura Thurman) and the quietly reserved postulant Sister Mary Robert (Hannah Rogers-Gee).
Deloris is asked to join the choir to keep her out of trouble. She realizes, however, how bad they are and starts to turn the choir around bringing Mary Robert out of her shell. That Sunday, the choir perform an up tempo hymn which brings in more people and donations to the delight of Monsignor O’Hara (Graham Ward) but Mother Superior is horrified.
Over the coming weeks the choir becomes incredibly successful and is asked to sing in front of the Pope. However, the newfound fame comes at a price as Curtis and his goons see Deloris on the TV. They enter the convent and, armed and dangerous, Curtis tells Deloris to get on her knees and beg for her life. However, the sisters have different plans: “I’m part of one terrific Sister Act.”
The production will use a newly designed and built set from Scenic Projects and newly created costumes from Mike Capri at Triple C.
With a high proportion of females in the company, this production has been a popular choice amongst society members. The cast of nuns form the majority of the big singing and dancing numbers providing everyone with plenty of time on-stage.
However the society faced a major problem when casting the show; there were no black female members to take on the iconic role of Deloris Van Cartier. It is always a risk taking on a show without having company members that can perform the parts but the society was lucky that, after a twitter campaign, several ladies auditioned for the role.
The part was won by Carlton newcomer Monique Henry. Monique has been an amazing discovery for the society and it’s hard to believe that she has never performed in a musical before. She learnt to sing by listening to her family in church. Her talent then developed through school productions involving singing and dancing. After this she continued to sing in local choirs and, most recently, can be found gigging and performing in Nottingham and surrounding cities. Despite never having acted before, her talent was uncovered through the audition process.
Monique says she has always been keen to try theatre but was always unsure about how she could begin to get involved. When sent the audition notice for Sister Act, a film she has always loved, she thought the script was funny and the songs so fantastic she decided to give the audition a try.
She says “I am really enjoying the creative process. It’s a lot of work but very enjoyable. Learning lines, timing and stage positioning is challenging but one that I relish. I have never performed live in front of such a potentially large audience so it really will be a week of firsts!”
Carlton Operatic Society will perform SISTER ACT at the Theatre Royal Nottingham from Wednesday 28th – 31st May 2014. More information is available at www.carltonoperatic.com and tickets through the theatre box office www.trch.co.uk or 0115 989 5555.