YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Nikita Jones has a big role to play in The Youngstown Playhouse’s production of “Sister Act,” but she’s done it before.
Jones plays Deloris Van Cartier, the streetwise lounge singer who hides from mobsters in a convent and wins over the nuns in the process.
The character was made famous by Whoopi Goldberg, who played it in the smash hit 1992 film.
Jones, who handled it in 2019 for Top Hat Productions, says she loves the role, but it is challenging.
“I am on stage for the majority of the show,” she says. “There are a lot of quick changes and things of that nature.”
The cast also features Amy Burd as Mother Superior, Eddie Souther, Elizabeth Huff, Jenny Long, Caitlin Overton, Arcale Leighton Peace and Terry Shears.
The fast-paced comedy-musical will kick off the Playhouse’s first full-length season in four years. It opens Sept. 23 and will run for six performances over two consecutive weekends.
Most theatergoers are familiar with the “Sister Act” story and embrace its warmth – and humor.
Jones says what makes her character so funny is that she is not trying to be funny.
“She doesn’t care, and I like that about the character,” she says. “Although she can be diva-ish, you see the loveable and human side of her.”
The musical is being directed by Emma Wason.
Wason, a veteran actor making her Playhouse directorial debut, says the production is bursting with talent and energy.
“It’s the same story as the movie but what I love so much about the musical is the characters have more substance,” Wason says.
Wason cites the role of Sister Mary Robert as an example.
“You get her whole backstory,” she says. “She grew up in the convent, not by choice, and is at an age where she is wondering if she should continue to follow this path.”
There was not much need to update the script, she says, even though the setting has been changed. The movie takes place in 1990s Reno, Nevada, while the musical is set in 1970s Philadelphia.
The theme remains centered on sisterhood and the resilience of the women, Wason says. “The title song talks about the pull Deloris has on these women, who have truly become her sisters,” she says. “It’s beautiful and powerful.”
The upbeat music, which will be set to a recorded track and not a live band, is another memorable part of the show. “Our singers are absolutely amazing,” Wason says. “You will leave the theater humming the songs. They stick with you.”
Jones says she loves the music too, but “it’s the dancing I am struggling with! I don’t dance as much as I used to these days!”
The actor recently had another key role, albeit a very different one. She played Sofia in the Playhouse’s 2021 production of the wrenching drama “The Color Purple.”
Tickets for “Sister Act” are $17, $22 and $27 (plus a $3 fee per ticket) and can be purchased weekdays by calling 330 788 8739, or in person at The DeYor Performing Arts Center box office, downtown. Tickets are also available at YoungstownPlayhouse.org.
Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 23, 24 and 30, and Oct. 1; and 2:30 p.m. Sept. 25 and Oct. 2.
Pictured: Nikita Jones plays the character made famous by Whoopi Goldberg in the film.