“Mister Act,” the drag show parody of the 1990 film, “Sister Act,” starring Whoopi Goldberg, was performed for one night only Friday, Feb. 2 at the Parker Playhouse, 707 NE Eighth St., in Fort Lauderdale.
Produced by Latrice Royale Inc. and Peaches Christ Productions, the show marked its South Florida debut with “RuPaul’s Drag Race” alumni Latrice Royale and Willam as the lead stars, along with Peaches Christ, Heklina and a slew of Miami drag queens in the supporting cast.
“We planned this about a year ago, probably, looking at the calendar and deciding to try to bring this show to Fort Lauderdale,” said Christ, aka Joshua Grannell, who is perhaps best known as the host of his cult movie send-up, San Francisco’s Midnight Mass. “And the only way to do it really is to work with all this amazing local talent. Heklina, Willam and I come from out of town but the rest of the cast is local, pretty much. Florida local. One is from Jacksonville. They’re not all from Fort Lauderdale but from the region.”
Christ is a filmmaker and screens movies in San Francisco with drag shows. “I’ve been doing that for a long time,” Christ said. “Actually, 1998 is when we started so this is my 20th anniversary of creating these shows.”
Even though Christ created the drag parody of the film, “Sister Act,” ironically enough, he admits he’s never actually watched the original musical. As writer and director of the show, he partnered with Royale and Willam to bring it to a mainstream audience.
“We performed it in San Francisco, Seattle and Portland, and Latrice had said ‘I’d love to do it in Fort Lauderdale someday because that’s my hometown and kind of show them this other side of me,’” Christ said. “They’ve never seen her act in a play before.”
In “Mister Act,” Royale stars as a struggling Reno, Nevada drag performer who accidentally witnesses the murderous side of her showgirl “sister,” LeWanda Balenciaga, played by Tiffany Fantasia. Fantasia says the parody was “tweaked up a little bit” from the original film.
“I am...let’s just say, I’m not the best person. I’m a mean person in the play,” Fantasia said. “When [producers] were putting everything together, they were like ‘oh Tiffany, you’re perfect for this role.’ So I was like ‘hell yeah, get me in it.’ So I jumped right in.”
Much like in the original movie, Royale’s main character is forced to re-enter the closet and hide in a convent, fleeing to Fort Lauderdale to impersonate a nun at a church in the urban ghetto of Wilton Manors. There, she meets the choir of nuns, including Sister Willam, who has a hidden talent for singing and tucking but just needs it to be brought out...her voice, that is. Reverend Mother Christ encourages Royale to direct the failing church choir, much to the dismay of the grumpy choir director, Sister Heklina.
“Instead of teaching the choir to sing because we suck so bad, she actually teaches us to lip synch,” Christ said. “It’s still very much a parody. It’s a drag show. And we all kind of get to be ourselves to some degree while playing other characters.”
The choir members are played by some of Miami’s drag talent, including reigning Miss Florida F.I. Kalah Mendoza, reigning Miss Miami Beach Gay Pride Joanna James, Elishaly D'Witshes and Tayanna Love. Also in the cast are Rose Boca Jaya and current reigning Mr. and Miss Pride South Florida, Judas Elliot and Delores T. Van-Cartier, who is actually really named after the title character from the original film.
“I’m one of the nuns, but for me, it’s a little special because my name actually came from ‘Sister Act,’” Van-Cartier said. “The whole thing is almost like a tribute to me. Just the perk and playing off the name and what the show is actually about, it’s a lot of fun. I’m glad to be a part of it.”
Bringing “Mister Act” to South Florida happened by chance. Christ and her friend, Heklina, a drag queen and entrepreneur who founded San Francisco’s TrannyShack, do an annual cruise, called Queens Overboard. This year’s cruise, which runs from Feb. 4-11, departed out of Fort Lauderdale, going to Key West, Costa Maya, Cozumel and Grand Cayman. Last year, Christ and Heklina did the cruise with Royale and fiancée Christopher Hamblin, who both live in Fort Lauderdale.
“When we realized we were going to be here to do the cruise, we checked to see if Willam was available. If the dates all worked out, we could all be together in Fort Lauderdale at the same time, which sounds a lot easier than it is, usually,” Christ said.
Coming to Fort Lauderdale is a treat for Willam, who visits Florida (Boca Raton, Orlando, Cocoa Beach) at least three or four times a year. Willam previously starred in a Peaches Christ production of “Clueless: Get a Clue,” a parody of the 90s Alicia Silverstone film, playing the title role of Cher. For “Mister Act,” he said he wanted to play against type and “be the little white nun” — an acting stretch because “I get to be naive and innocent and sweet.”
Christ and Royale met a few years ago after she appeared in season four of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” When Royale came off the show, Christ had a screening scheduled for the documentary movie, “Paris is Burning.”
“I asked her if she wanted to come and be a part of a ball that we threw in the theater with real ball folks,” Christ said. “Latrice had been a part of ball culture and had judged things before. So she came and did a performance and actually helped me co-host this whole ball we threw in the Castro Movie Theatre; and then we screened the documentary. For me, I was like ‘that was amazing, I love Latrice.’”
The two did a few other projects together, including working at the San Francisco Symphony, where Christ was producing an event.
“But I really wanted to do a show for Latrice, and it was actually Willam who suggested we do a parody of ‘Sister Act’ with Latrice,” Christ said. “I was like, ‘that’s brilliant.’”