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The Journal Gazette

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Sydney Shuherk plays Sister Mary Robert in "Sister Act: The Musical," which University of Saint Francis opens on Friday.  

Thursday, November 02, 2017 12:00 pm

Spotlight: Sydney Shuherk, 'Sister Act'

COREY MCMAKEN | The Journal Gazette

If you go

What: "Sister Act: The Musical"

When: 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Nov. 10 and 11; 2 p.m. Sunday and Nov. 12

Where: Robert Goldstine Performing Arts Center, 431 W. Berry St.

Admission: $17 adults, $15 seniors 65 and older or children younger than 12; group rates available; 422-4226 or

The University of Saint Francis School of Creative Arts opens "Sister Act: The Musical" on Friday.

In the musical, a singer named Deloris witnesses a murder and hides out with a group of nuns, including young Sister Mary Robert. Unlike the 1992 film, the musical is set in the 1970s with period-appropriate original music.

The Saint Francis production's cast includes actors from the university and community. Fatima Washington stars as Deloris and Sydney Shuherk plays Sister Mary Robert. Brad Beauchamp directs.

Shuherk, a junior at Saint Francis, answered some questions via email. Her responses have been edited. To read more about the show, check out Friday's Weekender in print and online.

Q. The musical is set in a different time period and has different music from the movie version that people might be familiar with. For people that are only familiar with the movie version, can you explain how your character is different in the musical?

A. In the original "Sister Act" movie, my character, Sister Mary Robert, is a young and timid girl who learns to sing out and be brave. This remains true for the stage show and can be multiplied tenfold.

The story line remains the same at the beginning, she is incredibly quiet and shy with very little to say and learns to sing out in choir rehearsal. With her voice she sings solos with the choir but in my opinion her growth pretty much ends there. She has come out of her shell relative to who she once was but still is a follower ultimately.

In the stage version her bravery doesn't end with her vocal abilities, but when she rejects Mother Superior's response to Deloris' return. The lyrics she sings to Mother Superior are "I've always been good, I've always obeyed, I've lived as you taught me, I've prayed as you prayed ... So she (Deloris) stays here now or I'm going with her instead."

Deloris has impacted her life in such a way that she truly considers leaving the convent which I find so crazy. This girl has known little about life outside of her cloister (which she acknowledges in her song "The Life I Never Led") and makes the threat to leave, which is one thing I love more about her than anything else.

I know that this is all fiction, but that's just such powerful motivation to consider. Anyone needing encouragement to take the leap in life, whatever that may mean to you, will definitely find it in Sister Mary Robert.

Q. I remember watching "Sister Act" on a VHS tape rented from Blockbuster on a tiny TV. Do you remember your first experience with "Sister Act"?

A. I can't lie, I didn't watch "Sister Act" until after I was cast in the show. I remember watching Whoopi Goldberg introduce the cast at the 2011 Tony's. "Sister Act" was always just the "funny Whoopi Goldberg movie my grandma loves" for most of my life.

I can't even explain how deeply I have fallen in love with this story now. It only makes me appreciate being in this show even more.

Q. What are you learning from this production that you will carry with you?

A. The first response that came to mind was "I learned that I love working with Brad and Leslie (Beauchamp)!" Which is so true; I have worked with Leslie before in high school and Fort Wayne Summer Music Theatre, but this is my first experience with Brad and it's been a wonderful one!

But really playing Mary Robert has made me actually think about my character in a different way. Most roles that I play are the loud, slapstick, comedic relief. I myself am a loud and extroverted person and so playing that type of character comes naturally so I had to step back and think about how to pursue a shy role for the first time.

It has been a lot of fun switching things up and I look forward to carrying this experience with me.

Q. Let's say you need to hide out. Where do you take shelter and what is your secret identity?

A. This is a hard question to answer but I think drastic times call for some drastic measures which in my mind calls for a mass combination of all of my favorite things.

So, I love history. I am actually a history major at Saint Francis and hope to work in a museum some day. So if I had to hide out, I would definitely flee to Europe and hide myself in a dusty forgotten library with books from the Middle Ages. I could sit and read for weeks and be content as long as I had maybe a cat to pet and one other person to talk to.

As for a name? I'm going to have to go with Louisa Lumineer. Why? Well I've always loved the name Louisa and The Lumineers are my favorite band. Plus alliteration is awesome.