MOLINE — Chelsea Ward is in heaven, playing the divine, sparkling role of Deloris Van Cartier in Music Guild's new production of “Sister Act.”

A passionate 24-year-old Alabama native who lives in Davenport, Ward said this week: “There are not a lot of roles for strong minority characters. And I loved the movie.”

The inspiring musical (premiered in London in 2009 and on Broadway in 2011, and done at Circa '21 in 2016) is based on the hit 1992 film starring Whoopi Goldberg. Featuring original music by Tony- and eight-time Oscar winner Alan Menken, the show was nominated for five Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

When disco diva Deloris witnesses a murder, she's put in protective custody in the one place the cops are sure she won’t be found: a convent, according to a synopsis.

Disguised as a nun, she finds herself at odds with both the rigid lifestyle and uptight Mother Superior.

“Filled with powerful gospel music, outrageous dancing and a truly moving story, 'Sister Act' will leave audiences breathless,” the synopsis says. ”A sparkling tribute to the universal power of friendship.”

Ward graduated from Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and earned a master's in psychology at William James College in Newton, Mass., all within four years. She works as a budget analyst at Rock Island Arsenal, Joint Munitions Command.

Her acting credits include Rosalia in Music Guild's “West Side Story,” Gary Coleman in “Avenue Q” and Marie in “Marie and Rosetta” (both at Playcrafters), Lady in Red in “For Colored Girls” (Bridge Collective) and Thea in “Spring Awakening” (Center for Living Arts). Ward noted that not much acting was required for her to embody Deloris.

“It's a role that's very similar to my personality,” she said. “She's spicy, blunt, loud. And I think she's very strong. It's easy to slip into it, like old shoes.”

Peggy Hamilton, 34, plays Mother Superior. She lives in Davenport, teaches vocal music at Bettendorf Middle School and has mainly done backstage work for Music Guild. That's included assisting with costuming for “Shrek” and “Sunset Boulevard.” Hamilton is a regular volunteer in the Costume Shop the first Saturday of every month.

“I really liked the idea of being part of a big show with a strong female cast,” she said, noting it's fun to play the dominating Mother Superior. “The hardest part of the Mother Superior role is that there's so much joy and fun and humor happening, I have to make sure that I stay serious.”

Hamilton grew up in Polo (near Dixon) and graduated from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, moving to the Q-C seven years ago.

Ward grew up in the strict Southern “Holiness” church movement.

“It's intense,” she said. “For me, I'm very open-minded. I believe all religions can be correct. My main thing is accepting all people, treating all people with respect, regardless of their race, creed, or sexual orientation.”

Hamilton is Methodist, and noted there are several Catholics in the Guild cast.

“it's been educating to learn from them about Catholics, even some of the jokes in the script.”

Ward said the show was pretty respectful of the church, with gentle ribbing, and you don't have to be Catholic to appreciate it.

“If you are Catholic, it shouldn't offend you to the point of storming out,” she said.

In contrast, the blue humor (such as simulated puppet sex) in “Avenue Q” caused many Playcrafters playgoers to leave at intermission, Ward said.

“I really like interacting with the cast,” Hamilton said. “We have a lot of especially strong singers in this show. To be able to sing together and perform with them has been really great.”

Ward felt she had to perform extra hard to reach the quality of her fellow cast, and she loves listening to them. “I love supporting other people and watching them work,” she said. The nuns in the cast include Abbey Donohoe and Wendy Czekalski, and the monsignor is played by Guild veteran Harold Truitt, who also designed the set.

Bill Marsoun painted the stained-glass windows, David Blakey is stage director, Curtis Fischer-Oelschlaeger is music director and Kathy Schutter is choreographer.

Ward has had a book of poems and short stories published and wrote the book and lyrics for a new musical (“Venus”) in just three days, which she plans to present as a workshop production late this year at Moline's Black Box Theatre. It's a tragic story about a female freak-show attraction from South Africa, who died at 26 in 1815.



Jonathan is a reporter for the Dispatch-Argus-QCOnline.com.

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