Marlene Hill knows she’s following some big names into the lead of Sister Act, but she’s not letting that phase her.
She’s taking on the role of Deloris Van Cartier, who becomes Sister Mary Clarence, in South Down Musical Society’s production of the musical adaptation of the hit film.
The role was originally played by Oscar-winner Whoopi Goldberg.
‘They’re huge boots,’ laughs Marlene, ‘Whoopi is Whoopi – there is no-one like her and she embraced that role and totally put her stamp on it. Then when the stage version came out, she was a consultant on it as well.
‘The nice thing about the stage production is that it’s all brand new songs, so it’s none of the same songs from the film, and I think that’s quite nice – it’s the same kind of storyline, but a different perspective so you can put your own mark on it.
‘That does help you to escape the shadow of the film – they are such unique roles and the people who played them did such a great job that there’s the danger you will end up trying to emulate them and the way they played that role.
‘When you have a little bit of something that allows you to just do it that little bit differently, you begin to think, I know it’s a big role, I know it’s a big show, but I’m going to give it my best shot and hopefully put my own little stamp on it.
And hopefully the people who come along will clap their hands and tap their feet and dance in the aisles.’
Earlier this month she also went over to Mayflower Theatre in Southampton where X Factor winner Alexandra Burke was playing the lead in a UK touring version of the show.
‘I went to see it for a bit of research. But I didn’t see it in the West End. I would have loved to see Whoopi in it.
‘It was an unusual production, they all played the instruments actually on the stage, but I enjoyed it.’
Deloris is Marlene’s first role with SDMS – but she was part of the nuns’ chorus in the Portsmouth Players’ production of the show in 2014.
‘This is a real thrill for me, I would have loved to have played this role years ago, but the opportunities didn’t present themselves, so when this came up I knew I had to give it my best shot.’
And she’s loving her new theatrical family.
‘They’re very highly-skilled singers and dancers – and that’s one thing I’m not, I can’t dance, but you tell me where I need to be on stage and I’ll get there.
‘They’ve been very warm and welcoming, and very talented. Everybody works well to support each other. It’s a real proper family feel, and we’ve had some real giggles along the way.
‘We are going to be rocking it – you get over to Ferneham Hall, you’ll see!’
Ferneham Hall, Fareham