West Middle School to stage world premiere of youth-adapted musical ‘Sister Act Jr.’

photo by: Contributed photo

West Middle School students, from left to right, Jazzlyn Fowler, Amelia Wiles and Quincy Caldwell rehearse for the school's upcoming musical production of "Sister Act Jr."

A feel-good comedy musical will be making its world premiere in a Lawrence middle school this week.

West Middle School will be the first school in the world to perform a junior version of the musical adaptation of “Sister Act,” according to Music Theatre International, the company which licensed the musical to the school.

Music Theatre International’s website shows the Lawrence school’s production, which opens Thursday, as the first performance in the world, with the show then opening at schools in Tennessee and Mississippi in early March before opening internationally at a school in Glasgow, Scotland, in late March.

“It’s kind of cool (to be the first),” said Charlie Goolsby, theater director for West Middle School.

“Sister Act Jr.” is a youth-adapted musical based on the 1992 film “Sister Act,” starring Whoopi Goldberg, and the Broadway musical with the same name.

The musical tells the story of Deloris Van Cartier, an aspiring singer, who witnesses a crime and is placed in witness protection. Police choose to hide her as a Catholic nun in a convent, where Van Cartier revolutionizes the church’s choir. However, the choir begins earning notoriety, which leads to a dangerous situation for Van Cartier.

Although the original film was set in the early 1990s, Goolsby said the musical takes the story back to the late 1970s, which called for the integration of disco music into the show. He said those who enjoyed disco will recognize some of the musical numbers that take pieces from famous songs.

“There’s little snippets that you go, ‘Oh, that’s part of a Bee Gees song,'” Goolsby said. “Then there are all sorts of jokes built in, either about the time period or about being a nun.”

The show also includes gospel music and “outrageous dancing,” according to Music Theatre International.

The West Middle School production includes more than 80 students either performing or doing crew work in the after-school show, Goolsby said.

The school’s run includes four productions of the show in the auditorium at the school, 2700 Harvard Road. The shows are scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, and 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturday. Tickets are $7 and are available in the school’s main office.

Additionally, Goolsby said there will be a reception held after the Friday performance in the school’s cafeteria in celebration of the show and his planned retirement from teaching. Goolsby has taught for 37 years and “Sister Act Jr.” is the final production of his career, he said. Tickets for the reception are $5.

More information can be found on the school’s theater program website, wmstheatre.weebly.com.

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