After posting up my last interview with the delightful Sean Og Cairns, the response of the public to this one-to-one discussion was amazing. My fingers began tapping on my work station and my pencil never left the page for one second, whilst brain storming for my follow up interview with another cast member.
As I scribbled down the words Sister Act and Nuns, it was a no-brainer to predict where I was going to set my sights on next. Why not interview one of the fabulous, hilarious and most memorable nuns themselves? It was then that I made it my responsibility to secure an interview with the outstanding, refined, and superb talent that is Karyn McCooey.
Karyn was given the opportunity, and most of all the great responsibility of playing one of the most memorable characters of both the film and stage version of Sister Act, in the Dundalk Musical Society’s production. This role was Sister Mary Patrick, of course. The role was made famous in the film version by actress Kathy Najimy, and then followed up by the West End debut by newcomer Claire Greenway.
So as I got dressed in my room on the first of my two nights attending the stage musical version of this classic, I had the soundtrack blaring on my iPad, whilst chiming in to each line and lyric.
When I later sat in the stalls, I pondered to myself whether the cast would live up to my expectations and to the original character personalities. Sister Mary Patrick is probably everybody’s favourite nun, due to her jolly, care-free attitude and love of a bit of adventure outside the walls of the convent. As soon as the curtain went up and Karyn walked out onto the stage in full nun get-up, delivering her first line… I had to hold myself back from throwing my arms up and screaming “HALLELUJAH!!!” The Dundalk Musical Society could not have cast anyone better than Karyn. Firstly she has, and always will have the flair for theatrical performance. Secondly, she portrayed the part right down to Mary Patrick’s comedic characteristics. And ultimately, her musical numbers were out of this world. From the first lines of the song “Good to be a Nun!” to her final number with the entire cast for “Spread the Love Around,” it was like heaven to my ears. With such a flawless voice; both powerful and soft in various stages, she showed total control over her stage presence and it was clear to see that both the leading and supportive cast looked up to her. And who wouldn’t? Her personality was infectious throughout the show.
However, now that Karyn has hung up her habit, placed her rosary beads back in their case and held back on waking up “at 4am RIGHT on the dot,” I got the chance to catch up with the lovely lady herself.
Entertainment Fairy (EF): Hi Karen, first of all, let me congratulate you on a successful run of Sister Act The Musical. You all brought the house down!! What was your reaction to the 6 sell out shows at the An Tain Theatre?
Karyn: It was absolutely breathtaking. It was as if we were a West End/Broadway cast in a Dundalk theatre. The audiences reaction was completely overwhelming, in the best possible sense. I will never forget it.
EF: What was your favourite part about playing the character of the iconic Sister Mary Patrick?
Karyn: I think it was her permanently positive attitude that she had about everything. I felt she would put a smile on your face even in the dullest moment.
If I came into the rehearsal feeling the littlest bit under the weather, as soon as you switched on Mary Patrick, she would brighten your entire day. She was so infectious.
EF: Were you a fan of the film version starring Whoopi Goldberg and also it’s west end debut, before taking on one of the character roles yourself?
Karyn: I have seen the movie so many times, I really do love it. It’s the type of story that you never get tired of. All of the varying characters that you have throughout the piece, and the different perspectives that they give it, are what makes it for me really. The music of course is different on stage compared to the film. I loved the movie score but the new music; coupled along with all its dance routines and harmonies, you cannot help but dance and clap your way through it. I adore it.
EF: I know what you mean! The new songs created for the musical, add an entirely new dimension to the show, whilst still maintaining respect for the original storyline. What is your favourite song of the entire musical, and of course, you can be biased?
Karyn: If it was the ladies/nuns, I would have to say…….“Bless our show.” When they all come together to give a blessing to prepare for the Pope, who is coming to see them perform; the solidarity and friendship that develops between the nuns and Deloris is heartbreakingly beautiful.
My favourite song from The Gangsters is…I think “Lady in the Long Black Dress“, it’s comedy gold!
And for the Ensemble piece….I adore “Spread the Love Around“. It’s the essence of what the show is all about.
EF: Dundalk Musical Society is a great place for expressing your creativity and love of the theatre. What have you learned and gained from being a part of the DMS?
Karyn: I joined at the tender age of 12 and have been involved for the last 22 years in some capacity. I started by selling programmes for the annual Panto and shows produced each year and then aged 15 I started on stage as part of the chorus in a Panto and learned the ropes from there. I then went to going onto shows as I got older and being in the chorus; progressing to getting small roles in Panto, finally building up to being a leading lady. When not on stage, I have been behind the scenes as part of the stage crew and learned the ropes there as well; eventually moving up to ASM (Assistant Stage Manager). I have enjoyed each show and learning curb along the way.
The musical society teaches you about stage etiquette and what is expected from you within a theatre; all the old traditions that are still in place in theatre land.
EF: Lastly, what is in store for you next? Any plans on the horizon?
Karyn: I could list the next 12 months but I won’t. Lol!! Firstly, I am ASM for our upcoming pantomime “Beauty and the Beast,” so this means starting the stage construction and gathering what’s needed, like props etc. The show is confirmed to take place at the An Táin Arts Centre, January 5th-12th in Dundalk.
Before that I have a Christmas concert with international award winning choir Clermont Chorale who are based here in Dundalk that is on the 13th December in Carlingford Heritage Centre at 4pm.
Lastly, I am also getting my own students ready for their annual Christmas concert, which is being held in the Studio Theatre in the An Táin Arts Centre on 19th December at 7:30.
EF: Thank you once again for taking the time out of your very busy schedule to answer these questions, and I’m sure I’ll see you again very soon. Best of luck Karyn.
All I can say is WOWWWW!!! How busy is Karyn? I’ve never seen such a hard-working girl, balancing so much; all in the love of theatre. In the spirit of Sister Act, that lady is one Nun on the Run.
For all people looking to attend any of the above shows that Karyn mentioned, head straight on over to http://antain.ie/ where you can buy your tickets in advance to the shows commencing, and then pick them up at the box office before the performance. Each of the shows are destined to be just as successful as the last.
I think I’m voicing everyone’s view when I say that we cannot wait to see Karyn on stage again, and we definitely all cannot wait for the Christmas/New Year Pantomime, as well as big stage musical performances for next year.