April 12, 2023 at 5:17 p.m.
Melrose Stages Inc. presents
‘Sister Act the Musical’ this week
Quint Swedenburg loves hearing people laugh. There will be plenty of that this week when Melrose Stages, Inc., presents “Sister Act the Musical” April 13-16 at the Marit Elliott Performing Arts Center in Melrose.
Swedenburg plays Curtis Jackson, who he calls the “main thug and ringleader,” depicting the seriousness of a thug with humor thrown in.
“I love to hear people laugh, whether or not there is always something funny,” this experienced Sauk Centre actor said. “Sometimes you can pick people (in the audience) out, like Rox Behnen. She had a memorable laugh.”
His “fling” is disco diva, Deloris Van Cartier, played by Pam Rue, of Melrose.
“Sister Act the Musical” is based on the hit 1992 film of the same name. It revolves around Van Cartier, who witnessed a murder, and she is placed in protective custody in the one place the cops are sure she won’t be a found: a convent. Disguised as Sister Mary Clarence, she finds herself at odds with the rigid lifestyle of a nun and Mother Superior, played by Becky Kapsner, of Freeport. Using her unique moves and singing talent to inspire the choir, Van Cartier breathes new life into the church and community but, in doing so, blows her cover. Soon, the thugs are giving chase, only to find them up against Van Cartier and the power of her newly found sisterhood.
Locating Van Cartier and bringing her home is Curtis’ mission, with help from his thugs Joey, played by Jesse Kuechle, and TJ, played by Tom Satterlee.
“My thugs are the comic relief,” Swedenburg said. “They’re behind me and chime in with background vocals.”
They have run-ins with Eddie the cop, played by Brandon Wehlage and rookie cop, played by Mike Schaab.
“My favorite part is being handcuffed, basically when the police get me and ‘it’s the end of the road buddy. You are done,’” Swedenburg said.
Meanwhile, Van Cartier, in disguise as Sister Mary Clarence, works her way into the heart of the sisters at the convent, even Mother Superior.
“Deloris is very sassy. She loves who she is with no apologies made for who she is, and she wants to believe in this big world that she is going to be a star bigger than anybody else and then all of a sudden this happens and it brings her to a place where she’s not used to, where somebody else is in charge,” Rue said. “I find myself wanting this big world and realizing sometimes you are meant to be where you are meant to be, and God decides that for you.”
She said Van Cartier has an epiphany moment.
“She has never really felt like she belonged anywhere, and she feels like she didn’t need anyone else,” Rue said. “At the convent, she realizes it’s OK to accept people in your life to help you.”
Rue said portraying Van Cartier is fun but “super challenging.”
“It’s not music I knew or heard before,” she said. “The music in the musical is different than in the movie, and there are a lot of words to the songs.”
In the last 10 years, Rue has performed in three Melrose shows – “Mamma Mia,” “Mary Poppins” and “The Wizard of Oz.”
“Being a nun is not something I’ve done before,” she said.
But it was something she was encouraged to become, years ago, by her grandpa Robert Goebel as he drove her to Sacred Heart School in Freeport.
“My grandpa, when I was young, said someday you’re gonna be a nun, and I was pretty feisty and said, ‘No, Grandpa, I’m not gonna be a nun,’” Rue recalls. “When I got the part, I said a prayer to my grandpa telling him ‘You were right.’ Now he’s up there watching.”
Swedenburg, an experienced actor on the Melrose stage, is having fun playing the part of a thug. He estimates he has been in close to one dozen productions since 2008. His favorite part was playing Lurch in “Adams Family.”
“I had to be on time with everybody but out of time as Lurch,” he said.
While stage experience is fun, there is one downfall.
“The older I get the tougher it is to memorize things,” he said adding, “It keeps your brain going, the artistic side.”
Swedenburg enjoys the camaraderie with fellow actors – old and new.
Other cast members include Jackie Spoden-Bolz as Sister Mary Patrick, Emily Krogstad as Sister Mary Robert, Amber Roerick as Sister Mary Irene and Tina, Kim Schneider as Sister Mary Martin, Sara Coltvet as Sister Mary Lazarus, Karen Heinen as Sister Mary Theresa, Jennie Schmidtke as Sister Mary Bernard, Anna Neu as Sister Mary Jane and a fantasy dancer, Alisha Vornbrock as Sister Mary Rose and a fantasy dancer, Arlene Pieper as Sister Mary Ivy Rose, Brooklynn McChesney as Sister Mary Katherine, Mayanne Dewald as Sister Mary Celeste and a fantasy dancer, Kalee Bueckers as Sister Mary Sandra and Michelle, Herman Lensing as Monsignor O’Hara and Andrew McChesney as Benni, bar patron and the pope.
“Sister Act the Musical” is directed by Marit Elliott and Andrew Engel, with Nancy Jeske on costumes and Bonnie Poepping leading the crew. The band includes Engel, Angela Bitz, Don Neu, Todd Prout, Noah Braun and Tom Pattock.
“We’re like a little family, the whole production team,” Swedenburg said.
In fact, one of the actors is family for Rue – her niece Amber Roerick.
“I’ve always gone to her shows, and she’s gone to mine,” Rue said. “This is our first show together.”
Rue said “All of it,” when asked her favorite part of the production.
“I love singing, even though it’s challenging,” she said. “And I love working with people who are also passionate about theatre.”
The “Sister Act the Musical” cast and crew are ready to present their moving story with music, dancing and lines – and lots of laughter.