RICK BROWN, Yard Light Media
KEARNEY — Director Bernard Monroe has learned to make sure everything that happens on stage serves the story.
“Every time you watch what you do, does it tell the story?” He asked. “If you don’t, the value of what you’re doing only diminishes the improvement in the enjoyment of the show. The key to everything is storytelling. Many directors will want to involve some amount of pyrotechnics. But the thing is, if those pyrotechnics weaken the narrative of the story, then you’re not serving the coin.
Throughout his directing career, Monroe recognized that the story had to “drive the locomotive down the track”. He remembers seeing “Starlight Express” on Broadway, the 1984 musical with songs by Andrew Lloyd Weber.
“It was so over the top, so full of pyrotechnics and technical marvels that you had no idea what the show was about,” he said. “I’m sure there are people who have seen ‘Starlight Express’ who will 100% absolutely disagree with me because they love all pyrotechnics. I think the director’s job is to tell the story in a way that allows people to feel an emotion when they walk out of the room.
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The Crane River Theater will present the musical “Sister Act,” July 26 through August 26. 7 at the Miriam Drake Theater in the University of Nebraska Fine Arts Building on the Kearney campus. Tickets for the show cost between $25 and $35.
The plot follows a singer, Deloris Van Cartier (played by Chanel Black), who sings in a girl band.
“She’s on her way to fame and fortune in show business,” Monroe said. “She is having an affair with a married gangster. She sees him kill someone. Deloris surrenders to the police and finds himself on the run. In order for them to keep her as an informant and witness to the murder, they have to hide her.
The best place to hide Deloris — at the convent of the Holy Order of the Little Sisters of Our Mother of Perpetual Faith.
Set in the late 1970s, the comedy is based on the 1992 film of the same name starring Whoopie Goldberg. The production features music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Glenn Slater.
“In her relationship with the nuns, Deloris has a lot of conflict with Mother Superior,” Monroe said. “There are a lot of dynamics where the cultures they both are from are really at odds with each other. In order for the Mother Superior to feel that there is a purpose for Deloris there, she puts her in charge of the nuns’ choir.
Deloris turns the choir into a Vegas act.
“Suddenly people are flocking to see not just the service, but also to see these nuns,” Monroe said. “A church that was on the verge of being sold is now thriving and becoming Philadelphia’s No. 1 attraction. Of course, the gangster will eventually find out where she is.
Monroe sees the story of “Sister Act” as a story of transformation.
“Deloris is transforming in ways she never thought possible,” he said. “Her life was first and foremost about fame, money, fortune, attention – then she gets involved with these women who literally live their lives in introspection.”
Deloris learns that she can go beyond the superficial qualities she seeks and can fill her life with sisterhood, compassion, and discovery.
On top of all that, the musical is a feel-good story filled with catchy tunes and strong dances.
“It’s ridiculously fun,” Monroe said. “I call it ‘Dream Girls Meets the Catholic Church.’ It’s really fun. The music is lively and vibrant – like Motown in the late 60s and early 70s. It’s set in 1977 so the music has a lot of great numbers, a lot of great choreography and it’s great fun. I think the audience will understand the message of the show through the fun everyone is having on stage.
The cast of 25 local performers and professionals. For the director, getting everyone on the same page, at the same time, presents one of his biggest challenges.
“There are local people on the show and people who teach education classes,” Monroe said. “One of the challenges is making sure everyone is rehearsing at the same time. The local people have day jobs and things like that. Sometimes we will stage a number and a few people will be missing. We will need to create a guideline or map of where everyone is going so that when they are together we don’t have to relearn everything. We can just hook people up.
As a director, Monroe makes hundreds of production decisions, from positioning the performers to what they wear on stage with them.
“Even with regard to the purse that Deloris has, it has to go through me,” he said. “The prop guy will send me a picture; which of these bags do you like? I’ll say, oh, I like this one and then they’ll go get it. The thing is, everything has to go through me.
Yes, Monroe collaborates with the other artistic directors.
“My set designer is wonderful, my lighting designer is wonderful, and we have a great collaboration,” he said. “Ultimately, as far as what ends up on stage, the decision is mine. What comes with it is also the responsibility of whether it works or not, it’s completely up to me. And you You have to agree with that You have to agree with someone who says, “I saw the show and I didn’t like it.” takes responsibility for it.