The fabulous cast of the Broadway musical comedy Sister Act is currently in Manila for their two-week run at The Theatre at Solaire as part of their Asian Tour.
The show is based on a 1992 film starring Whoopi Goldberg, who produced Sister Act’s Broadway production back in 2012. It tells the story of ballsy diva wannabe Deloris Van Cartier who disguises as a nun and hides in a convent after she witnesses a crime involving a group of thugs. There she meets the uptight Mother Superior and the rest of the sisters who helped her discover the meaning of sisterhood.
Right after we checked out the production’s backstage shenanigans, we were able to meet and chat with the two stars of Sister Act! Meet Dené Hill and Rebecca Mason-Wygal, the amazing women who play the roles of Deloris Van Cartier and Mother Superior, respectively.
Question: What challenges did you have with your character? What do you like about your character?
Rebecca Mason-Wygal (Mother Superior): I think it’s funny that we’re both a little bit different with our characters. I play mother superior. She’s very serious and very by the book. She likes to follow the rules. In my regular life, I like to have a little more fun than that and backstage, it’s kind of fun to keep things light. We goof around a little bit. Dené’s also a little different than her character too, right?
Dené Hill (Deloris Van Cartier): Yeah. Uhm, I think I’m pretty shy in terms of my character which is completely opposite of Deloris. She is the life of the party. She is exciting and she wants to have fun! She finds herself in this convent and it’s a very stoic environment. It’s very orderly, and she wants to disrupt all of that. So I think, for me, the energy this fabulous lady brings onstage really gives me a lot of work to work off of. I think that it keeps you moving forward, because once someone gives you something, you give it back in terms of the acting.
What’s your favorite song number of part of the musical?
Dené: It’s hard to pick a favorite. Deloris has a running theme of a song called “Fabulous Baby” that she reprises a couple of times in the show and I love that song. I think it’s this anthem of self-confidence. It says so much about Deloris is and it’s also this just fabulous pop number and I would listen to it in my car when I had the Broadway soundtrack and it just made me feel great about myself! I still love hearing it every night!
Were you already a fan of the film before you landed the roles?
Dené: Oh, absolutely! I don’t think there’s anyone ever who has seen the film and did not absolutely fall in love with part 1 and 2 because I think you grew up seeing Whoopi Goldberg playing a variety of films and for me, I think that it really speaks to the range of what an artist can do in terms of their career – from Whoopi Goldberg taking that from the movie to producing this musical. I think that speaks to the power of artistry.
How different is your attack on your respective characters (from Whoopi Goldberg and Maggie Smith’s portrayal)?
Rebecca: We never want to mimic any other actor although I grew up watching the movie, and I agree with you – those portrayals are iconic. But I think we also bring a big chunk of ourselves to these roles. Mother Superior and Deloris fight a lot in the show and when Dené and I get into those scenes, I really feel like I’m sending something to Dené and getting a big response back from her. It feels like it would never be the same from those two actresses, because it couldn’t be. We’re very unique people and we’re telling the same story but with a really fresh take.
Since you said a while ago that your roles are different from who you are in real life, so how do you prepare before the show and for your characters?
Dené: In terms of being in a musical, you really, really have to be on a great diet and work out. I think when we started this show, I lost about seven pounds and I’m already thin, just because of the amount of work you have to do – from the rehearsals to the performance – and the amount of work it takes not just physically, emotionally and mentally about, you know, 3 or 4,000 beats my character has throughout the show. In terms of preparation, we work with the best, and I think, for me, in terms of the stamina…exercise has been key. [Mentally], I have my dressing room, and I have a photo of when I started. I have a million sticky notes almost covering my mirror of just clear reminders and, like, that moment of meditation before the show.
How do you take care of your voice, because the stage manager said that you don’t get off the stage and you’re onstage the entire time?
Dené: As a singer, when you stay sick and you’re performing sick and you get this type of role of your life, and you haven’t been sick once, it’s an incredible blessing. I think I am really good about my vitamins, my nasal sprays, my exercise. I try to stick to a strict diet, but I’m trying to gain weight now because I lost weight. But in terms of my stamina and the vocal health, you really have to focus on your diet and do all the proper things. I have a little steamer in my room at night that I put peppermint oil in it [and] I breathe the steam in.You have to know when you have to stop talking, or, you know, when everyone wants to party late at night and you can’t. So there’s a lot of balancing out, making sure you make the time to rest your voice.
Rebecca: I am super lucky [that] I don’t have to manage nearly as much music as she does, but the songs that I do sing are very challenging. Like she also said we got to work with the best. We brought this show with the Broadway creative team with Steve Beckler, our director, and Janet Rothermel, our choreographer. They both have a ton of experience working this show on Broadway so they came in with a lot of advice for us on how to maintain the show both emotionally and physically. And it’s a little harder on tour than it is on Broadway where they get to stay in one place for the whole run. On tour, we had to meet new environments. This is my first tour, and my first time in Asia, so there’s a lot of new environmental things that we have to be prepared for, get used to do. The Philippines has been great so far! I had a little trouble in some of our earlier countries, but the Philippines has been lovely so I’m happy about that!
Sister Act is presented by Ovation Productions and will be running until July 9 at The Theatre at Solaire. Tickets are as follows: VIP – P6883.50, A Reserve – P5824.50, B Reserve – P4765.50, C Reserve -P3706.50, D Reserve – P1588.50.