The Olivier-Award nominated Sister Act The Musical, will be bringing divine comedy to Wales Millennium Centre when it visits Cardiff from 13-18 November on its tour of the UK and Ireland.
Based on the iconic movie, this sparkling tribute to the universal power of friendship, sisterhood and music tells the hilarious story of the disco diva whose life takes a surprising turn when she witnesses a murder. Under protective custody she is hidden in the one place she won’t be found – a convent! Disguised as a nun and under the suspicious watch of Mother Superior, Deloris helps her fellow sisters find their voices as she unexpectedly rediscovers her own.
Landi Oshinowo will be playing the role of Deloris Van Cartier and Lizzie Bea will be playing the role of Sister Mary Roberts. Lesley Joseph will star a Mother Superior and Welsh actor Phillip Arran as Monsignor O’ Hara.
Andy Howells recently spoke to Phillip about his career and appearing in Sister Act.
How has Sister Act been received so far? Are you’re enjoying it?
Absolutely. I can just say amazing for both, because the audiences are loving it with standing ovations before we’ve even finished most nights. For me, it’s just a dream to be doing it. I’ve worked with Lesley Joseph and a couple of the others before. So, to be back on stage doing something that’s so much fun… this was my hobby, so to get paid to do what was my hobby and to enjoy it still so much…
How did you get into acting?
I am a Swansea boy and did Amateur Dramatics for many years. My little name drop here was I used to do shows with Catherine Zeta Jones when I was a kid. It was always my hobby doing the Am Drams and back in 1991 one of the directors said to me, “You should be doing this professionally, just go and audition,” and that’s what I did.
I went to London and did an open audition. Even though I didn’t get that first job, I did get a recall for Miss Saigon, and that made me think, “Okay, well, I must be able to do it,” and I did. I moved to London later that year, and I just kept auditioning, and it took me 13 years to get my first West End role, even though I’d been working elsewhere.
A few years later, I got my first original West End Cast show, which was in Priscilla back in 2009. In the early days there wasn’t a lot of work in Wales, but I’ve been lucky enough. I’ve done 2 pantos in Swansea and Cardiff. I did Mal Pope’s Amazing Grace & Cappuccino Girls, Lynn Mackay’s Swansea Women, so, I’m excited to be coming back to both Cardiff and Swansea with Sister Act.
Have you ever appeared at Wales Millennium Centre before?
No, I’ve only ever been there once to see something, do that is a huge excitement, I can’t wait!
You’ve done quite a bit in the United States too.
I went out there in 2014 to do Rock of Ages for Norwegian Cruise Lines, and the work just kept happening. I ended up moving over there and I’m a dual citizen now, so I can work both sides of the pond. it’s very different, I was living in New York and stayed there all the way through the pandemic. It was just tough when I was missing everyone at home. I was like, “I need to get back. I need to see everyone.” So, getting back and then getting this job within a couple of months of being home was like, “I guess I’m staying home for a while!” (Laughs).
Sister Act isn’t the first time you’ve worked with nuns on the stage, because you were in Nunsense as well?
I was. I played Mother Superior. So, Lesley Joseph needs to watch her back! (Laughs)
Tell me about the role you play in Sister Act.
Monsignor O’Hara is the chief clergy in the convent church, and he has a nice relationship with Mother Superior. The way we’ve worked it is that they’ve been together for a long time, and they want to save the church. He has the purse strings to the convent and reins her in a little bit because she can get carried away. He has his own little journey where he obviously wants to save the common church and he becomes a bit of a hipster in Act 2. So, I have a journey where I go from being quite staid and practical, to all glittery costumes and a big, sparkly microphone. I also do a couple of other little ensemble bits within the show. I’ve always said to my friends, “When you come, don’t blink, because you’re going to miss me in my ensemble bit!”
I also understudy the role of Curtis, the baddie which I’m so excited to get on and do as well because I love playing baddies!
What do you enjoy most of all about Sister Act?
I just love the story and the journey that people go on with it, because there’s a lot of comedy in it. It’s all original music, nothing from the movie. You have drama within the songs, a lot of comedy. So being on stage or backstage, you get to listen to all the laughs. People really buy the story, which is why, by the end of it, they’re up on their feet jigging away. It does take you through a lot of emotions and we all leave feeling on a good high at the end of the show.
Do you have a particular song for yourself?
I don’t, The Monsignor doesn’t have a song per se, but I’m in a lot of the numbers. Sunday Morning Fever, which is the start of Act 2 finishes with me and Deloris in front and centre, so that’s my moment until my curtain call!
What’s been the vibe you’ve had from the audience so far?
Everyone loves it. They all talk about how much they’ve enjoyed it, how much fun it was. A lot of people say, “that was great.” Initially, you get some people saying, “Oh, but it’s not like the film.” The premise is the same, but it’s an all-original piece. It’s just jolly, you can’t come away being miserable from it at all.”
It’s good also that people come in and get a fresh experience too.
If it was like the film, then people would judge it harshly because they have something to judge it against. We’ve got Landi, who is superb as Deloris, and she was part of the original West End cast. You can’t say “She’s not Whoopi Goldberg”, because she brings her own take on it. If it was going word by word with the movie, they’d all be likening her to Whoopi, which wouldn’t have been fair, so now Landi completely owns it, which is great.
What do you hope that audiences will take away from Sister Act?
Just keep the love of theatre and take the joy. We’ve had a miserable few years as a world with everything that’s gone on. To walk away from the theatre feeling happy, feeling the joy and hold on to it. Enjoy that lovely feeling for as long as you can because we all need that upliftment.
Do you have any plans for your Cardiff visit between performances?
Obviously catch up with all my friends and family. It’s a joy to get home to Wales. In fact, I’m doing pantomime in Wales this year, because we’ve got a seasonal break. I’m booked to do Carmarthen Lyric (in Jack and the Beanstalk) and I get to do my first Dame this year. So, it’s the fact that I’m going to come home, set myself up ready for Christmas, I’ll be there in November, obviously, and then making plans, catching up with everyone and making plans for all I can do in December when I’m off! (Laughs)
After Christmas, you’re back out with Sister Act. How long is the tour?
Our contracts are until October next year. One of our last venues of this leg of the tour is the Swansea Grand Theatre of which we are there from 23rd September next year for a week. So, getting to be home and play my home theatre as well is just honestly… to have come back from America after a few years and being stuck out there, away from family and friends, then have this! I’m on the road, seeing everyone, get to play, come home to Wales, get all my Welsh kicks, get to Swansea and get my Joe’s Ice Cream!
Tickets for Sister Act are on sale via Wales Millennium Centre’s website