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From left, Marissa Garcia, Kiana Beverly and Ariya Hawkins perform the opening number of "Sister Act." 

DECATUR — Who knew hanging with a bunch of nuns could be fun?

The idea is the storyline for “Sister Act,” Millikin University’s next musical. The student cast will be on stage Nov. 9 through 11 at Kirkland Fine Arts Center.

The story follows a Deloris, a nightclub singer, who witnesses a crime and must go into hiding. “The police stash her away in a run down, broken down convent,” said Sean Morrissey, director and choreographer.

Deloris is hidden until she can testify in court. In the meantime, she connects with the nuns through singing with the convent’s choir. She learns what she wanted really isn’t what she needed.

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Members of the cast run through a scene at the start of "Sister Act." 

The musical is based on the 1992 film of the same name starring Whoopi Goldberg. The movie was made into a musical in 2006. Although the story remained the same, a few changes were made. The setting is 1970s Philadelphia. The writers added all original music.

“The movie pulled a lot of old popular tunes and did remix of all of those,” Morrissey said. “None of the music from the film is in this.”

The music was written by Alan Menkin, whose work can be heard in Disney’s “Aladdin” and “The Little Mermaid” as well as “Little Shop of Horrors.”

“They should be very familiar with his music,” Morrissey said.

Rafael Wilson, on stage as Curtis, is enjoying the 1970s music. “The music has funk,” he said.

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Kiana Beverly, left, and Sarah Obert perform a scene from "Sister Act."

According to actor Nathaniel Lee, the music emulates the era. “And I love disco,” he said.

The cast performs with a full band and pit choir of five singers. According to Morrissey, the music is energetic and catchy. “I am confident people will be walking out singing a couple of tunes,” he said.

Settings for “Sister Act” include a police station, a nightclub, an apartment,  “and many locations inside a church,” Morrissey said. “We can use a small number of pieces to create a multitude of locations.”

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Cast members rehearse a church scene for "Sister Act."

“It has an empowering statement on feminism,” Wilson said. “We see Deloris underneath Curtis’s puppeteering, then she realizes she doesn’t need him.”

“The themes are special for this time in our lives,” said actress Sarah Obert. “It is about inclusivity, transformation and the power of groups of people.”

According to the director, the musical is humorous with adult themes and jokes. “There is no bad language,” he said. “But there is gunfire on stage and there is a murder.”

The characters make fun of each other. “With tongue very firmly planted in cheek,” Morrissey said. “It is not meant to offend anybody. It’s just laugh-out-loud funny.”

The cast wanted to use the musical as an opportunity to bring people together. Millikin students and faculty have witnessed the country’s struggles.

“Where we are as a nation has been such a conflicting place,” Morrissey said. “A show like this is what everybody needs right now. Where you can come in and just forget about stuff and see a show that is truly about love and acceptance.”

Contact Donnette Beckett at (217) 421-6983. Follow her on Twitter: @donnettebHR

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"Together Decatur" Columnist and Food and Drink Reporter

“Together Decatur” columnist and food and drink reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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