BY ELIZABETH FRIEDLY / AJT //
Whoopi Goldberg took her 1992 hit film “Sister Act” to Broadway when she produced Cheri and Bill Steinkellner’s musical version with Stage Entertainment in 2009. But before that West End production, “Sister Act” had roots in Atlanta, having played at Alliance Theater in ’07 after its original ’06 run in California.
Now a part of Broadway Across America, “Sister Act” returns to Georgia this month, and the Atlanta Jewish Times spoke with the man behind the movement – “Act” assistant dance captain, Danny George.
One of the few to have memorized the show in its entirety, George must be ready to hop onstage at a moment’s notice to take over for any unavailable actor (or actress, in some cases). What’s more, he teaches the show to understudies and newcomers alike in bi-weekly rehearsal sessions.
It’s an intimidating load for one who just recently graduated from the Boston Conservatory, but the Florida-native is taking his first big tour in stride.
Atlanta Jewish Times: Thank you for taking time out of rehearsal for this! It sounds like you’re insanely busy.
Danny George: I am, I don’t really get that much free time. But it’s been totally worth it.
AJT: Have you visited Atlanta before this show?
DG: I haven’t, and I am so ex–ci–ted! Yeah, I probably will get some time there, and I’ve heard it’s just an awesome city. Everyone on the cast is so excited to come to Atlanta.
AJT: So how is life out on the road?
DG: It definitely has its challenges. You don’t get to spend a lot of holidays with your family. You have to find doctors in random cities, but luckily – I think it’s probably because I’m Jewish – I have a cousin that’s a doctor in every city (laughs). So, I’m very lucky.
AJT: In every city?
DG: Pretty much – or an orthodontist.
AJT: I was also going to ask if you had any highlights from the tour, moments that stood out for you so far?
DG: I guess probably when I was at home for the holidays, because we were actually in Florida. And that was really, really special because we got to have my entire company over. It was really nice for the holidays. And we loved Philadelphia and Chicago, because the food there and everything was just awesome.
AJT: I’ve still never gotten to try a Chicago deep-dish pizza.
DG: Oh my gosh, it’s the best! It’s really cool, because every city we go to, we get to really sample the regional food. We had Philly cheesesteaks, and I’m sure in Atlanta I’ll have as much fried chicken as possible! That kind of stuff. It’s very cool.
AJT: Now of course, we’ve got to get to your Jewish roots.
DG: Yes, please!
AJT: What’s it like being a Jewish person in this particular show?
DG: I gotta tell you – the last two shows I did before this were altar boys (laughs). Yeah, so for some reason I keep getting cast in Christian shows! I think it’s a little more challenging for me because I don’t know how to cross myself and there’s a lot of terminology or props that I had no idea what they were or what they were for And most of the cast is not Jewish, so on the High Holy Days, I’m the only one fasting for Yom Kippur, and no one knows what an afikomen is… You know there’s a few things here and there that get difficult, but I’m getting to know another religion at the same time, which is pretty cool.
AJT: By the end of this you’ll be an expert!
DG: (Laughs) Yeah, by the end of this I’ll have a degree in religious studies.
AJT: Between this and the altar boys…
DG: Right? It’s so crazy! I keep donning this altar boy costume. It’s just nuts.
AJT: Did you grow up in a very Jewish household?
DG: I actually grew up in a mixed household. My dad was Catholic and my mom is Jewish, but both my parents raised me and my brother very Jewish. We went to a Jewish elementary school up until fifth grade. We had to speak Hebrew every single day, we had a bar mitzvah to prepare for, Jewish studies [and] we went to temple for every holiday.
I guess we’re more Reform or Conservative. We do Shabbat, obviously. My grandmother was actually raised Orthodox.
So yeah, I’m very proud of my religion, so this is very cool.
AJT: That about wraps it up. One last thing though: Do you plan on staying in theater?
DG: Oh, absolutely. This is pretty much at the very beginning of my career, so hopefully I’ll give Nathan Lane a run for his money.
“Sister Act” will play April 23- 28 at the Fox Theatre. Performances are Tuesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 6:30 p.m. with matinees Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.