Music, mystery, mixed-up family and mayhem all play a part in the 2019-2020 theater season at Stained Glass Playhouse.
The new season kicks off Friday night with “Sister Act: The Musical,” based on the 1992 Whoopi Goldberg movie.
“Sister Act” features music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Glenn Slater. The original book is by Bill and Cheri Steinkellner, though the book was reworked by Douglas Carter Beane when the production moved from London’s West End to Broadway in 2011.
After something of a hiatus, Margaret Wages returns to Stained Glass to direct the musical.
Wages was born and raised in this area, but moved to New York City for seven years before moving back and directing Stained Glass’ “Romanoff and Juliet” in 2007 and “The Fantasticks” in 2009.
In the meantime, she got married and the couple had two children, which meant time away from the theater. She reactivated by performing in a couple of musicals at Winston-Salem Theatre Alliance. One of them was “Sister Act.”
“I love this show from my Theatre Alliance experience, and it is still very fresh to me,” she said.
While the cast had already started music and choreography work with music director David Lane and choreographer John C. Wilson, her blocking process was just beginning in mid-June when she discussed the production.
“The musical, while it follows the story of the movie, is different in certain ways,” Wages said. The original music changes it and allows further character development.
“What I love about it is that, on the surface, it’s a wacky comedy. But on the stage, it digs a little deeper, and you can follow the lyrics from multiple characters,” she said.
Nicolia Reneé Humphrey, who plays lead character Deloris Van Cartier, also brings “Sister Act” experience to the production.
Humphrey performed in the musical’s ensemble two years ago at Paramount Theater in Burlington. “Music is my world, and I fell in the love with the music,” she said, “so I auditioned here and got cast as Deloris.”
She had admired the lead actor’s performance in Burlington. Often watching from the wings, she said, “I wanted to be her at the earlier show, and here I am.”
She is enjoying the challenge of taking on Deloris. “It’s really pushing me, in a good way. I’m not shy, and I’m willing to be ‘extra,’ to be dramatic.”
In the end, Wages says, “Sister Act” is a humorous tale with an underlying message. “It’s a story about people with differences who have to live together — and find that they can.”
Humphrey agrees. “We see them discovering that there are more similarities than differences between them.”
But wait, there’s more
Stained Glass chairman Allen Tyndall shared information on the additional three programs that will fill out the theater company’s 2019-2020 season. As with several prior seasons, it mixes a mystery in November with a story with some romantic overtones in February and a comedy in May.
The season will continue with Agatha Christie’s popular murder mystery, “Witness for the Prosecution,” which tells its story in the environment of an English murder trial. Vince Hancock, who has been in Stained Glass shows and directed at the Andy Griffith Playhouse in Mount Airy, will debut as the director.
In February, Beth Henley’s popular Southern family tragicomedy, “Crimes of the Heart,” will be staged with Steffanie Vaughan at the helm.
Set in Mississippi, the play centers on the three Magrath sisters who reunite in the family home to deal with a number of personal issues, focussed by sister Babe having just shot her abusive husband.
The season wraps with the freewheeling farce, “Lend Me a Tenor.” Stained Glass regular Mike Burke will direct this lively tale of an ill-fated visit to Cleveland by a famous opera star who has some personal challenges.