Getting in the habit for sisters

A scene from Sister Act @ Opera House, Manchester.'(Taken 28-09-11)'�Tristram Kenton 09/11'(3 Raveley Street, LONDON NW5 2HX TEL 0207 267 5550  Mob 07973 617 355)email:
A scene from Sister Act @ Opera House, Manchester.'(Taken 28-09-11)'�Tristram Kenton 09/11'(3 Raveley Street, LONDON NW5 2HX TEL 0207 267 5550 Mob 07973 617 355)email:
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Holy moly – hit musical Sister Act is in Sunderland for the first time next week. Katy Wheeler spoke to one of its stars, Michael Starke, about hitting the high note in a habit.

NUNS are on the run across the UK as West End musical Sister Act tours the country for the first time.

At the helm is Hollywood actress Whoopi Goldberg who produced the show, based on the 1992 film she starred in as a lounge singer who has been put under protective custody in a San Francisco convent after being put on a mob boss’s hit list.

Fans of the blockbuster won’t be disappointed by the stage production says star Michael Starke, but it also has a life of its own.

“It’s different from the film in that it has all original songs, while the film was all cover versions. It helps to capture the Philadelphia Sound,” he explains.

“The songs mean it has as its own identity and separates it from the movie but with Whoopi Goldberg as executive producer it’s not too far from the movie.”

Stepping into Whoopi’s shoes as reluctant nun Deloris Van Cartier is rising new star Cynthia Erivo who is joined on stage by Michael as Monsignor O Hara and former Coronation Street actress Denise Black as Mother Superior.

Michael is most well known for his TV roles which include playing Thomas “Sinbad” Sweeney in Brookside for 16 years; Kenneth Hopkirk in The Royal and kebab shop owner Jerry Morton in Coronation Street.

But he’s currently enjoying the thrill of playing in front of a live audience every night.

He said: “I think the touring show is better than the West End one, we’re playing to full houses and the audiences are really getting sucked into the story.”

He added: “TV is great, but you sit round all day waiting to do five minutes of filming and it’s very tight schedules. In theatre though the reaction you get from an audience is immediate. You get that murmur of recognition when you come on and then that feeling when you do your bows at the end is incredible. It’s what real acting is all about.

“I did Brookside for many years and then The Royal and Coronation Street so there’s a cross section of people that know who I am, they come up and talk to you when they see you out, which is nice.”

Sister Act played to more than a million people at the London Palladium during its West End run and is currently a huge hit on Broadway.

Speaking about his role in Sister Act, which runs at the Empire from November 15 to 26, Michael said: “He’s the head of the convent where they live. Like the rest of the Catholic church, they like to have a man in charge, but as usual he’s not really in charge, the Mother Superior is.

“He’s a fun character to play. He’s a symbol of the staidness of the church and is very straight-laced, but as time goes on and he starts to get involved he comes to life more.”

The actor is no stranger to the Empire stage after appearing at the venue as Edna Turnblad in Hairspray during a sell-out run at the venue last year.

He said: “We opened Hairspray in Liverpool and then came to Sunderland second and the reaction we had was fabulous. In the North East, like the North West, they love their musicals.”

Whoopi Goldberg said: “We were thrilled to open Sister Act in London but I’m even more excited to have the show tour the UK so even more folks experience those singing nuns. It’s a great show for everyone – your kids, your granny, even the neighbour next door who you might not like so much.”