When the footlights flare and the curtains swing open on Joe Jefferson Playhouse’s (JJP) production of “Sister Act The Musical,” the moment will reward Cathy Bouler’s immense investment and endurance. The director, cast and crew waited a year and half for the moment.
A pandemic got in their way. So, 18 months felt like 18 years.
The cast of “about 25” had finished rehearsals in spring 2020 when they met five days before opening. The production was postponed until June.
“Right as we started tech week. It hurt,” Bouler said.
Then it was postponed until August. Then that was threatened.
“At that point, the JJP board just determined we would pretty much scrap the whole season,” Bouler said.
They needed to monitor the expected fall and winter rise in illness. Hope remained.
“We left the set,” Bouler said. “I stashed all the props and furniture from the show in one central place and we just kind of, you know, put sheets on everything and just let it sit.”
Bouler has helmed an array of JJP productions — “Chapter Two,” “The Cemetery Club,” “Aida” “August Osage County” and “You Can’t Take It With You” — but none had a toll quite like this one. The extensive cast and crew had invested “four to five” rehearsals a week for three plus months. That amounted to pressure on the director as the postponement continued.
“It taught me how much patience I have,” Bouler said.
As life went on, schedules changed. Availability suffered.
Bouler held a small audition for five or six nuns, a principal male and some ensemble males at the end of May. They started meeting again. Refreshing. Learning.
It all comes to a head and runs Aug. 6 – 22 in the Midtown theater at 11 S. Carlen St. Friday and Saturday curtain is 7:30 p.m. Sunday matinee is at 2 p.m.
The play is, of course, based on the hit 1992 comedy starring Whoopie Goldberg. The story centers on lounge singer Deloris Van Cartier who hides from deadly criminals by improvising witness protection within The Holy Order of the Little Sisters of Our Mother of Perpetual Faith convent. Cartier and the sisters exchange influences, each bettering the other and lifting all in joyful noise.
The musical premiered in 2006 on the West Coast, in 2009 on London’s West End, and on Broadway in 2011. Its first year garnered a handful of Tony Award nominations.
Tickets can be had at joejeffersonplayers.com or by calling 251-471-1534.
Bouler is a Mobile stage veteran well beyond her directorial duties. The Jackson, Alabama native and Troy University graduate has appeared in “about 20-plus” shows during her years in the Azalea City but never one that covered as much time and as many miles as this.
“Our choreographer, April Smith, lives in north Alabama and has spent weekends down here working on this,” Bouler noted.
Smith’s diligence is unsurprising. The protracted uncertainty involved in “Sister Act” has simply revealed the dedication required in the area’s community theater scene.
“The [cast and crew] that have come back, they’re troupers. I mean from the day we closed, every couple of weeks, I was getting messages. ‘I’m still here. I’m still ready. I’m still raring.’ I think they never lost their excitement,” Bouler said.
The University of South Alabama Archaeology Museum (6052 USA Dr. S.) reopened in the last weeks and they are eager to tell visitors about the 12,000 years of history in the Mobile Bay area. Regular hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free.
For more information, go to their Facebook page or call 251-460-6106.
The Gordon Parks photography exhibit at the Mobile Museum of Art (MMoA) has prompted collaboration around town. University of Virginia faculty member and Parks scholar John Edwin Mason, Ph.D., will be the featured speaker at the History Museum of Mobile’s (111 S. Royal St.) Aug. 4, noontime Learning Lunch. Mason’s book “Gordon Parks and American Democracy” examines ways Parks’ LIFE magazine photo essays as well as the books he published during the civil rights era challenged Americans’ notions of citizenship and made Parks one of the era’s most significant interpreters of the Black experience.
Bring your own lunch and beverages are provided. Learning Lunch entrance is free, but reservations are needed. To RSVP, call Jennifer Theeck at 251-301-0270.
At 7 p.m. the same day, Mason will lead a gallery tour at MMoA.
For more information, go to mobilemuseumofart.com.
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