Deloris Van Cartier, a ‘70s disco singer disguised as a nun at the heart of Sister Act, is a dream role for Lisa Estridge. Deloris is a woman who has spent her life fighting for her dream of being a singer—in spite of everyone around her telling her that she can’t. “She and I are a lot alike for several reasons,” Estridge says. “One—performing. I’ve had that in my blood forever. And two—I had a lot of people during my journey telling me that I can’t do this for a living.”
“One of Deloris’ first lines in Sister Act is ‘I’ve been hearing “shut up and sit down” since first grade at St. Mary’s. Twelve years of those nasty old nuns telling me what I can and cannot be.’” And that’s literally what I went through,” Estridge says. She attended Catholic school as a child when nuns still had a reputation as strict disciplinarians. “I was always into everything except school. I always wanted to be performing and singing. And the nuns at my school were like ‘No, you need to sit down and do this.’ I remember when they were auditioning for Annie in New York, and I actually had a teacher tell me ‘They will never hire a black Annie.’ And that was in grammar school!
“It wasn’t until high school that my glee club teacher saw the talent in me. His name was Mr. Frank Roman and he is one of the people who has truly inspired me in my life. This teacher was like ‘You’ve got something, and you could actually do this for a living.’ Had he not turned that light switch on for me, I don’t know where I would have ended up in life. He was the one person who looked at me and said ‘You could go to a performing arts college. You could do this for a living. And I believe in you to do this.”
And that is precisely what she has done. Lisa Estridge is a brilliantly funny actress with a voice so powerful she can make the ornate dragon in the dome of The 5th Avenue Theatre sway in rhythm with the music. She stunned audiences as the Witch in The 5th’s Into the Woods. In The 5th’s Company, her ballad “Another Hundred People,” sparkled and soared. And her turn as Donna’s best friend Tanya in last season’s production of Mamma Mia! was a scene stealer that had audiences rolling—and dancing—in the aisles. From Smokey Joe’s Café to Hair to Singin’ in the Rain and beyond, Lisa Estridge is part of a legacy of musical theater magic at The 5th.
And now she stars as Deloris Van Cartier in The 5th’s joyful new staging of Sister Act. A blend of witty comedy, disco mania, and miles of heart, it’s a part that might as well have been written for Estridge.
“It’s very ‘70s heavy, disco heavy,” Estridge enthuses. “And I absolutely love disco—that four-on-the-floor beat, that drive, that Donna Summer-y type drive! I think it’s the best music to dance to. And I think it’s the one of the best genres of music to sing. It’s raw. And the people that sang during that time? You know, there wasn’t any of that auto-tune and all that stuff. They just SANG! And that’s where I come from. You just sing out!”
Estridge’s passion for great vocals is matched by her gift for comedy, an essential mix to make this musical work. “I think I just have comedy in my bones,” she says. “But it’s also a really tricky thing to play. You can’t play the punchline. You have to play the scene as real as real can be. And when you play it from a real place, it ends up funny. No matter how absurd the scene or the story may be, you have to play it real and mean every word.”
But at its heart, this is a musical about what happens when we lift each other up, when we believe in each other. The choir discovers a new kind of unity with Deloris at the baton. And Deloris discovers that she can reach even greater heights when she has others to lean on. Estridge has become the star that she is through hard work and the belief of a lot of industry professionals. But so much in her inspiring trajectory can be traced back to one teacher whose belief in her talent and potential transformed her entire future.
| Governor Inslee Mandates Closure on All Public Gatherings Greater than 250 People|
Due to the continued spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus), Governor Jay Inslee and the Washington State Department of Health have mandated the closure of all public gatherings greater than 250 people. As a result, performances of Sister Actcannot go on as scheduled.
We ask for you patience as we explore every option to bring you this uplifting, joyful musical. We hope to follow up with you shortly.
We Need Your Help! As you can imagine, this closure represents a major financial loss for The 5th Avenue Theatre with a multi-million dollar impact. As a non-profit and the region’s largest arts employer, this loss is profound. Support The 5th now with a financial contribution and sustain us in a very uncertain time.