The musical Sister Act is dancing down the aisles this week at the Auditorium Theatre for a North American tour. This high-energy show has already landed five Tony nominations and stars Chicago's own Hollis Resnik as Mother Superior.
Resnik is no stranger to national tours, including Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Thoroughly Modern Millie. Her home base is in Chicago, most recently appearing in Angels in America at the Court Theatre and Candide at the Goodman Theatre. She has won 10 Jeff Awards along with a Helen Hayes Award.
Nunn talked to the head nun in charge right before the big premiere in Chicago.
Windy City Times: Hello, Hollis. Where in the world are you right now?
Hollis Resnik: I'm in Toronto. We opened here and have been here five weeks. I go home to Chicago on Monday and then we open Nov. 13 there.
WCT: Sounds like a whirlwind. Don't you love Toronto? I went there for the first time last year to write a story.
Hollis Resnik: Yes, it is a big international city. The crowds here have been wonderful. It has just been packed and sold out.
WCT: That was the first stop?
Hollis Resnik: We teched in Chattanooga, Tenn., which was actually a lovely city. We did two public previews there; then we packed up and came here to Toronto. We opened officially here and it has been doing very well.
WCT: How did you hear about the audition to in the show?
Hollis Resnik: My agent called me. I was actually in the middle of doing Angels in America at the time. I was not about to fly to audition for this so I put myself on tape and got the job off of that. It is sort of unusual.
WCT: That is the way of the world now!
Hollis Resnik: I just couldn't get there to New York to audition.
WCT: Congrats on the role. Now you are going to be touring all over the place.
Hollis Resnik: It's a national tour. After Chicago we go to Florida for two months; then we do Boston, Philly, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh [and] then the West Coast later on.
WCT: You have done several of these touring shows in the past.
Hollis Resnik: Yes, I have. This is not my first national tour so I have seen the country many times over. I really enjoy it. Traveling is not the easiest thing but it is a great cast and the creative team has been wonderful.
WCT: I met Ta'Rea Campbell, who plays the Whoopi [Goldberg] role, after the Millennium Park preview over the summer.
Hollis Resnik: She's an amazing singer.
WCT: We went to [Boystown nightspot Sidetrack after to drink.
Hollis Resnik: Oh, really? How fun!
WCT: Had you seen the Broadway version of Sister Act?
Hollis Resnik: I saw the closing night performance, actually.
WCT: So you got a little taste of it.
Hollis Resnik: It is a show that is great for the family and very indicative of 1978. It is a wonderful score. It really takes you back to that time period. I grew up then. It has lots of mirror balls, disco and sequins!
WCT: Fun. Is it similar to the movie in a lot of ways?
Hollis Resnik: Very much so, except we have these wonderful singing nuns that do wonderful arm choreography. They are a sight to see.
WCT: I'm thinking about wearing my nun's habit to the opening.
Hollis Resnik: Okayyou will fit right in!
WCT: You are such a fixture of Chicago but you didn't grow up here.
Hollis Resnik: I moved from Cleveland, Ohio.
WCT: What advice would you give Chicago actors on making a living?
Hollis Resnik: Chicago is such a great theater town. There has been such an influx of talent because theater companies are popping up all the time. The theater scene has expanded so much since I got to town. I say, "Stay there and keep it growing, nurture that artistic community because it is one of the finest in the country."
WCT: You won 10 Jeff Awards, which is huge.
Hollis Resnik: I have won, I think … 11. I won an ensemble award with La Mancha and I think people don't count that one.
WCT: We will count it, then. Have you had a favorite moment from a past Chicago show?
Hollis Resnik: I just love the last couple of things I did there. I loved doing Candide, Angels in America and Follies. All three were highpoints in my careerthree incredible directors, casts and entirely different roles. I have been able to expand so much in my work there. I'm so lucky for the opportunity.
WCT: Sounds like you are riding on top now.
Hollis Resnik: I have been so blessed.
WCT: And now playing a blessed role like Mother Superior. What is your take on her?
Hollis Resnik: I adore her. She is a wonderful, spiritual, caring woman. She has a bite to her certainly but the great thing about the show is that she has these lovely little conversations with God, which I really enjoy. She cares very much about her parish and her sisters. It is interesting to see her deal with the struggles of this new personality that comes in. Nobody likes change. Everybody knows the ending for this so you have to go for the ride and get to the end where it is so uplifting.
WCT: Tell me about this tango obsession of yours. I read about it on your website.
Hollis Resnik: I'm into Argentinean tango, yes. I have taken it up very seriously, I have to say. It is an amazing art form. I think every actor should learn how to tango because it is all about listening, responding, and being passionate in the moment. It has opened a whole new world to me with wonderful friends. I have done lessons here in Toronto. I love it. I am a doer, though. I don't sit at home and watch TV. I stay very active, play a lot of tennis, go to the gym and now I Argentine tango. It will take me years to get good at it.
WCT: It's a workout, I am sure.
Hollis Resnik: It is not really a workout but it is about surrendering and allowing oneself to be taken on a physical and emotional journey with the music. It is very much akin to an actor's progress.
WCT: Wouldn't you love to incorporate it into a show sometime?
Hollis Resnik: Yes, I would love to do that. That is in the back of my mind…
WCT: Is there a role that you are dying to play but haven't yet?
Hollis Resnik: In musical theater no, but I have always wanted to do The Visit, as far as a play. There are lots of plays that I still want to do.
WCT: How long is the run of Sister Act?
Hollis Resnik: Three weeks. It is down at the Auditorium Theater, with great acoustics. I encourage everyone to come down and see it. It's really enjoyable.
WCT: I am glad Chicago is a stop on the tour.
Hollis Resnik: Me, too; I get to be home for a little while. Thanks so much for calling, kiss Chicago for me and I will be there soon!
This holy production runs through Dec. 2 at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 E. Congress Pkwy. Order your tickets now at www.BroadwayInChicago.com and pray it's not too late!