Deloris Van Cartier's world revolves around only Deloris. That is until a murder forces her to become Sister Mary Clarence.
That's when Deloris' transformation takes place. And it's not just about her nun's habit.
Transformation is the theme for the musical "Sister Act," opening Friday, Nov. 3, at Theatre Baton Rouge.
The musical basically stays true to the 1992 Whoopi Goldberg film of the same name. Goldberg played nightclub singer Deloris, who dreams of fame, and Maggie Smith played Mother Superior, who humbled those dreams.
"But the great thing about this musical is the transformation you see not only in Deloris but in all the characters," says Courtney Murphy, who is co-directing with Kurt Hauschild. "Deloris goes from thinking only of herself to helping the nuns, and the nuns help her. It all comes full circle."
Alan Menken wrote the music for "Sister Act," with lyrics by Glenn Slater and book by Bill and Cheri Steinkellne. It debuted on Broadway in 2011.
Theatre Baton Rouge's production will mark the musical's regional premiere, which not only follows the mishaps and adventures of Deloris, played by Erika Pattman, but also provides more insight into her supporting cast.
Take Monsignor O'Hara, for instance. The role will be John Sallinger's last at Theatre Baton Rouge.
And though "Sister Act" is touted as a feel-good story, Sallinger, who is moving, is taking the monsignor seriously.
"Just playing this role is special," he says. "And you see who he is in this musical. He's been assigned to this failing church, and the archdiocese is trying to close its doors. He's been passed over for bishop, and he's resigned to what's happening."
But then a new nun appears and injects some hipness into the convent choir, which grows the Sunday congregation.
"She gets her wish of making it big as a singer," Pattman says, "but in a different way."
Of course, Deloris or Sister Mary Clarence, as she's known at the church, locks horns with Mother Superior, played by Jennifer Johnson, and instills confidence in the shy young postulate Mary Robert, played by Natalie Overall.
Sister Mary Robert believes she's always one step behind, but that changes when Deloris discovers she has a strong singing voice.
"I really wanted this role," Overall says. "Mary Robert goes through a big change during the show, overcoming her shyness, and it's fun to be able to make that transformation with this character."
As for Johnson's Mother Superior, she's "witty and very self-satisfied and genuine in her vocation," the actress says. "She's in the same situation as the monsignor, but she loves the nuns and is their protector."
Mother Superior's protective nature even includes the annoying Deloris.
"When Deloris comes to the convent, Mother Superior is already concerned about her well-being," Johnson says.
But in the midst of all of this good lurks evil in the form of Deloris' gangster boyfriend, Curtis Jackson, played by Kirkland Green. She walks into his office just in time to witness him commit a murder.
Then she runs, and his search for her is relentless.
"This is my first time to play an antagonist," Green says. "But playing the bad guy is fun. You get to do things to the others just because you're the bad guy."
But Curtis isn't all scary. His comical sidekicks add humor to his situation.
"And Curtis is the only character who really doesn't change in the story," Murphy adds. "He just goes to jail. But the circle completes itself with the other characters, which adds more to the musical."
A Theatre Baton Rouge production
WHEN: Nov. 3-5, Nov. 9-12, Nov. 16-19. Performances at 7:30 p.m., Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. An additional matinee is at 2 p.m. Nov. 11.
WHERE: Theatre Baton Rouge, 7155 Florida Blvd.
TICKETS/INFO: $30, $19 students. (225) 924-6496 or theatrebr.org.