The pandemic isn’t over, but as they say, the show must go on. At Lowell High School, a cast and crew of nearly four dozen students is preparing for a two-weekend run of the musical Sister Act.
“We want to thank the administration at Lowell Area Schools for supporting us and helping us produce our spring musical,” says director Amanita Fahrni. “There are many districts that have cancelled their shows.”
However, Farhni says Lowell has worked creatively to ensure students and a socially-distanced audience can safely enjoy the production. She adds, “I’m proud to say that we are finding a way to let our students have experiences, even if they’re slightly different.”
Sister Act opens tomorrow night at the Lowell Performing Arts Center and will have a 5-show run spread over two weekends. A limited number of tickets are available for an in-person audience, but people can also livestream the production at home. Tickets for either option can be purchased online at ShowTix4U.
Looking for Laughs
Farhni is a veteran director of Lowell High School productions. She has previously directed The Little Mermaid, Mary Poppins and Freaky Friday. When looking for this year’s musical, she knew she wanted a comedy. “We all need to laugh right now,” she notes.
Sister Act stood out as a good choice for several reasons. One being the theme of transformation and another being that it featured a genre of music not used in other recent musicals.
The story centers on Deloris Van Cartier, played by McKenna Grody, who is a nightclub singer and witnesses her gangster boyfriend murder someone. To keep her safe, police hide Deloris away in a convent where the sisters, with the exception of Mother Superior, have been kept in the dark about her true identity. As Deloris adapts to life in the convent, she takes to livening up the choir which in turns helps the sister’s church but also creates some complications.
“This show is an incredible story of found family and sisterhood,” says Sierra Hieshetter, who plays Mother Superior. “It is one of the rare shows that will make you laugh out loud and maybe shed a tear or two.”
Pandemic Planning for a Theater Production
When asked about the challenges in putting on the musical this year, Fahrni has a single answer: COVID. “Every challenge leads back to COVID!” she says.
However, the cast and crew have found ways overcome the obstacles. That includes face masks for everyone, having quarantined students join rehearsals via Google Meet and limiting ticket sales to 20% of the auditorium’s capacity. That means only 140 tickets are available for in-person seating each night, and opening night has already sold out.
The adjustments are worth it, though, so students can have the experience of performing on stage.
“I wanted to be a part of the musical this year because I knew how incredible it is every year,” says Ryan Virsik, who plays Eddie. Previously, Virsik had been in the orchestra pit as part of the productions of Freaky Friday and Mary Poppins. This time around, he wanted to try being on the stage instead. “I love how close everyone is, and this year is definitely no exception,” he explains.
Audiences will have five chances to see Sister Act:
- Friday, March 5, at 7pm
- Saturday, March 6, at 7pm
- Sunday, March 7, at 2pm
- Friday, March 12, at 7pm
- Saturday, March 13, at 7pm
“Everyone involved has worked so hard to create a production we are proud of, and the only thing left to do is share it,” Hieshetter says.
Virsik adds “The world is in tough times right now, and this production will put a smile on your face.”
In-person tickets and livestream access can be purchased online, and in-person tickets are going fast, according to Fahrni. Audience members coming to see the show at the auditorium are reminded that everyone must wear a face mask during the performance.