As part of the Alliance Theatre’s 2006-2007 season, the company staged an early version of “Sister Act,” based on the Whoopi Goldberg film. It took some time but the musical eventually wound up on Broadway in 2011. Now it’s back in the ATL for the first time since the Alliance version.
One of the cast members is openly gay Charles Barksdale. The performer was not involved in the Alliance show but is aware of many of the changes, most of which are new musical numbers and some narrative tweaks.
“Sister Act” has an original score by Alan Menken of “Beauty and the Beast” fame and some script work/help from Douglas Carter Beane, who wrote the Tony-winning, gay-themed “The Little Dog Laughed.”
While the movie is set in San Francisco, the musical takes place in Philadelphia in the age of disco, the ‘70s. Deloris Van Cartier is a lounge singer who witnesses a mob murder and has to hide out in a convent — and pretend to be a nun.
Barksdale plays TJ, who is the nephew of the villainous Curtis. He feels the character is a lot like him.
“He is comic relief,” he says. “The character is a little weird, ridiculous. His brain seems to have stopped working when he was age 12.”
He has two numbers and also figures in the finale. When he saw the show on Broadway, Barksdale was surprised at how gay it seemed to him, despite no LGBT roles.
“Sister Act” has a drag character, subtle gay context, “sequins and sparkle” galore, and humor that “seems written for a gay man,” he says.
A native of San Antonio, Barksdale attended the University of Texas. He has split his time after college taking on roles both in opera and in musical theater.