Production team competing for grant, trip to New York City
By David Yarger
Coming to the Niagara-Wheatfield High School Auditorium, the theater arts students will present “Sister Act,” based on the 1992 film, which starred Whoopi Goldberg.
The play starts at 7 p.m. today and runs through Saturday. Producer David Curtis said the show will give his cast a shot at something bigger than just putting on some play.
The N-W production of “Sister Act” is a 2019 Kenny’s finalist. The play is one of 10 productions nominated from local high schools.
According to kennyawards.weebly.com, “The Kenny Awards, presented by Shea’s Performing Arts Center and The Lipke Foundation, is an endeavor that recognizes the talent, dedication, and efforts of our local high school youth in musical theatre.”
Judges will view all 10 local productions and, in the end, select “The Kenny,” for outstanding musical production. The winning production will receive a $10,000 grant to benefit the school’s theater arts program.
In addition, cast and crew will be judged at each production for a possible nomination at the Jimmys. The selected Outstanding Leading Actress and Actor winners of the Kenny Awards will go on to receive an all-expenses-paid, week-long trip to New York City to participate in The Jimmy Awards in June.
Describing the “Sister Act” production, Curtis said, “Deloris Van Cartier is a ’70s disco singer who witnesses a murder by her boyfriend (Curtis Souther), and then she goes into hiding. So, Curtis, who is trying to find her and remove her from the world, goes into hiding. The Mother Superior is not happy that she is there and the two have discord. (Mother Superior) puts her (Van Cartier) in charge of the choir, which is not wonderful at the moment. And she (Van Cartier) turns it into this great big Broadway production for a Catholic Mass, which doesn’t sit well with the Mother Superior.
“So, basically, the show’s about the conflict between Mother Superior and Deloris, and Curtis and Dolores. In the end, come see the show. You’ll see how it ends up. It’s really a great show.”
Playing Curtis Souther is Nick Scott. Of his role, he said he embraces playing as the bad guy.
“I play the married boyfriend of Deloris Van Cartier. He runs a gang with four other thugs and he kills one of his gang members who he found to be talking to the police. When they find the evidence that he (Curtis) has committed this murder on one of their agents, he tries as hard as he can to find Deloris. It doesn’t really work out for him too well.”
“It’s really fun just getting to play the bad guy, because everyone hates you and you have to embrace the role. I’m always cast as the bad guy. You have to deal with the fact that nobody likes you at all,” Scott said.
Playing Deloris Van Cartier is Kristen Meachem. She said her character is pretty loud and vibrant.
“Deloris really wants to make it in the music industry. She wants to be a night club singer, she wants to do concerts and film,” Meachem said. “She’s dating Curtis – a married man – because he owns a night club and she feels like he’s given her this big opportunity. But then she finds out that Curtis isn’t that great of a guy when she witnesses him kill someone that she actually knows. So, she has to go into hiding, and she does not fit in (with) a convent at all, because she’s loud and abrasive and a bit irresponsible, where everyone is quiet and tucked in.
“Shenanigans ensue as she doesn’t really fit in and causes a lot of problems, but (she) kind of changes a lot things and modernizes a lot things, as well.”
Lastly, Alaina Buckenroth plays Mother Superior who has her bouts with Deloris.
“Mother Superior is the head nun at the church. She controls and dictates the schedule and the lives of the sisters there. She really takes on the mothership role when Deloris comes to the convent and she really protects the sisters and the nuns from Dolores at first. But when they get into a bit of trouble, she gives her the task of having to help the sisters, because she knows that the choir isn’t very good,” Buckenroth said. “I think she’s very skeptical of Deloris and she can be very judgmental at times, but that’s how a Mother Superior is. She kind of learns a lot from Deloris in the end, but I think both Deloris and Mother Superior grow.”
Additionally, Curtis, Scott, Meachem and Buckenroth said they understand this production is more than just another play with a lot at stake for the program, as well as themselves.
“The Kenny’s is a great organization that has supported musical theater in the Western New York area,” Curtis said. “There are many categories that they (judges) look at – the acting, the singing, the choreography, the sets, the lights, the sounds – and they’re very focused on student productions. So, we have student directors in every aspect of our production.”
The Kenny Award-winner will be announced May 11 at Shea’s Performing Arts Center.
Scott said the stakes do add a little bit of pressure, but everyone involved is looking forward to a great production.
“It’s something that we’ve never done before, so it puts a lot on our plate,” Scott said. “We actually started our show about a month earlier than we normally would, just to prepare for that caliber that we need to. It’s a very exciting experience for us, especially, because we’ve never done it before. There’s friends of mine who said they’ve done it before and they said it’s the most outstanding experience they’ve ever participated in.”
Meachem added, “I feel like it’s exciting for a lot of the same reasons. We’ve never really done it before. It’s just a whole new experience. I feel like the people that we’re going to meet through it are really cool and it’s cool to branch out and experiment with other schools and stuff. It’s also a bit more nerve-wracking, because there’s just so much more on the plate that we have to worry about.”
Buckenroth agreed with her peers and said, “I think it kind of aids in getting us to learn our lines and do the best we can and really delve into these characters. And just to really, really enjoy the show, because we know there’s something possibly out there for us.”
The first showing of N-W’s “Sister Act” is tonight at 7 p.m. in the high school auditorium.
Kristen Meachem poses after receiving a gifted jacket from Nick Scott.