By Cynda Green
Pagosa Springs must be in need of extra prayers — and extra laughs — this summer. The musical ‘Sister Act’, produced by Curtains Up Pagosa community theater, played earlier this summer. Now, Pagosa’s premier regional theater, Thingamajig Theatre Company, opens its professional production of ‘Sister Act‘ on Saturday, July 15, at Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts.
It will be a blessed event. And a blast.
The multi-talented Boni McIntyre is not only Thingamajig’s resident music director, but also director of ‘Sister Act’ and plays Mother Superior. From my observation, Ms. McIntyre is handling her theatrical duties with ease, and even had time to talk with me about the production:
“The important thing for audiences to know is that ‘Sister Act’ the musical is not ‘Sister Act’ the movie (Whoopi Goldberg). It has some of the same plot lines – our main character Deloris is in trouble because she sees a murder she shouldn’t have seen, and is being chased – but it’s very different from the movie. It doesn’t take place in the 80s but takes place in the 70s so we get to honor all that great disco music, and the music is tremendous.”
The music – part disco, part blues, part soul – is by Alan Menken, who also wrote the score for previous Thingamajig productions ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and last summer’s ‘The Little Mermaid’.
Ms. McIntyre continued. “The costumes will be the 70s big collars and big platform boots and disco hair.”
‘Sister Act’ is about Deloris Van Cartier, a Philly disco diva wannabe, who inadvertently witnesses her mobster boyfriend Curtis committing a murder. Deloris reports the murder to the authorities, who in turn hide her in a local convent from the revengeful Curtis and his thugs. All havoc breaks loose in the convent as Deloris and Mother Superior clash, and the nuns warm up to replacing their traditional music habits with their newly discovered inner-disco.
NYC based actor Sarita Amani Nash plays Deloris. “I feel both inspired and challenged by Deloris. She’s bold, talented and confident, but she also has a great personal journey throughout the show.”
Another NYC based actor, Marcus Desion, plays Lt. Eddie Souther, who has had a crush on Deloris ever since high school. “This is one of my dream roles. I’ve wanted to play Sweaty Eddie ever since I saw ‘Sister Act’ on Broadway, and to play it here in Pagosa means the world to me. I have an amazing Deloris in Sarita Nash… and Boni is an amazing director…”
I asked Boni McIntyre if ‘Sister Act’ would appeal to a good Catholic.
Her reply was, “Yes! We mock Catholicism from a place of love, and treat it with respect.”
I went to various online Catholic forums to see if they agreed with Ms. McIntyre, who was brought up Lutheran. Some comments on ‘Sister Act’ from those forums:
“I never thought that Sister Act poked fun at nuns. I thought it did a good job of showing that nuns come in all shapes and sizes and, more importantly, personalities — something that even Catholics are wont to forget, tending to see them as ‘generic’ nuns, rather than individuals.”
“…a mixture of satire and sweetness that can be embraced by the pious and non-believers alike.”
“Just enjoy ‘Sister Act’ for what it is. We’re allowed to have fun, you know.”
The Catholic Church has had difficulty retaining members in recent years. One study found that eighty-one percent of respondents who left the church to become Protestant said they joined their new church because they enjoy the religious service and style of worship of their new faith.
American Rebecca Mason-Wygal currently plays Mother Superior in the international Asian tour of ‘Sister Act’. Here’s an excerpt from her Phillipine Star interview, “Catholics can take cue from Sister Act”:
“The Church has sort of become a very serious place and it’s not really keeping up with the youth culture,” Mason-Sygal said about the ‘exodus’ of Catholics. “What I like about our show is that it refreshes that feeling and that energy and the focus is still about God, about faith and spirituality. It just brightens the whole idea. What Deloris does in our convent is like breathe life into it without taking any of it away, without taking God out of it, without taking faith out of it. She only makes going to church exciting again.”
Mason-Wygal’s remark is spot on. Pope Francis himself, addressing the 2013 World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, questioned the relevance of the church nowadays. “Are we still a church capable of warming hearts?” the Pope asked, acknowledging that many see the church as a “relic of the past.” While he said the church “must remain faithful to its religious doctrine, it had to be closer to the people and their real problems.”
“So, if we’re losing ground on people of faith, I think it may just be a lack of excitement that can easily be put back and we just need somebody to do it,” Mason-Wygal said.
Final thoughts from director Boni McIntyre: “Thingamajig’s Artistic Director Tim Moore did an awesome job selecting our company this season. They are so smart and intuitive as actors they make my job seem easy.” (The professional cast and crew hails from all parts of the country, and Jamaica as well.)
“If you come to ‘Sister Act’ in a bad mood, you’ll leave in a good one. It’s uplifting.”
‘Sister Act’ plays in repertory throughout the summer with three other musicals: ‘Aida’, ‘Hairspray’ and ‘Big River’. For tickets and more information, visit pagosacenter.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone 970-731-7469.
Sister Act presented by Thingamajig Theatre Company: Music by Alan Menken; Lyrics by Glen Slater; Book by Cheri & Bill Steinkellner with additional book material by Douglas Carter Beane; Directed by Boni McIntyre; Starring Sarity Amani Nash & Boni McIntyre; Scenic Design by Nick Kargel; Lighting Design by Laine Wong; Sound Design by Hannah Shutt; Music Direction by Boni McIntyre; Choreographed by Paul Thiemann; Costume Design by Adrienne Young; Properties by Tanya Quinn; Stage Management by KC Caimi.
Thingamajig Theatre is a professional nonprofit 501(c)(3) theatre in residence within the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts producing musicals, comedies and dramas year-round.