Former Queen Creek High grads play prominent roles in ‘Sister Act’ at performing arts center

Last performance of ‘Sister Act’ is tonight, Jan. 29

 

Haylee Abney serves as musical director for “Sister Act,” which is being performed at the Queen Creek Performing Arts Center. To perform the same duties in the center’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors” a few years ago, Ms. Abney drove between Flagstaff, where she was attending Northern Arizona University, and Queen Creek for the rehearsals. (Wendy Miller/Independent Newsmedia)

 

When Molly Jacobs needed a musical director for the stage show “Little Shop of Horrors,” she picked up the phone and called Haylee Abney.

Ms. Abney was all of 19, a 2012 graduate of Queen Creek High School who was in her sophomore year studying choral music education at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.

But Ms. Jacobs, director of the Queen Creek Performing Arts Center, was familiar with the teen’s work in the theater.

As a student at Queen Creek High, Ms. Abney was active in the school’s music and theater departments and with little performing groups in the community.

Ms. Abney wanted the job, she said during an interview, and to do it, she drove from Flagstaff to Queen Creek every weekend to oversee the music for the quirky Broadway hit show during its Saturday rehearsals and throughout its weekend run.

It was a hectic schedule she repeated for her remaining two and a half years at NAU, one that enabled her to serve as musical director for QCPAC shows such as “Annie Get Your Gun,” “High School Musical 2,” “Bye Bye Birdie,” “Music Man” and “Hairspray.”

Now she is finishing up work on “Sister Act,” which has its last performance tonight at 7 p.m. at the performing arts center.

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Ms. Abney is one of three Queen Creek High grads who figure prominently in the musical production of “Sister Act.” Brittany Thomas, class of 2011, is playing the effervescent Sister Mary Patrick, while Javier Otero, class of 2007, is a full-time staff member at the PAC, where he oversees its tech operations.

 

Brittany Thomas worked on shows at the Queen Creek Performing Arts Center before and after graduating Queen Creek High School in 2011. She has appeared both behind the scenes and on stage. In “Sister Act,” she plays outgoing Sister Mary Patrick, the role popularized on-screen by actor Kathy Najimy. (Wendy Miller/Independent Newsmedia)

 

Ms. Thomas holds down a full-time job at a food distribution company in Tempe, but volunteering at the PAC feeds her soul, she said during an interview.

“It helps me express my creativity and makes sure that cup is always full,” she said.

As a student, she also was extremely active in the theater department at Queen Creek High, which performs its shows at the performing center. The center is located on the school campus at 22149 E. Ocotillo Road, but is operated independently from the school.

After graduation, she got her theater degree from Grand Canyon University. Like Ms. Abney, she continued to work with Ms. Jacobs while attending school, assisting the QCPAC director for two years.

That led to her to directing her first show, the musical production of “Singin’ in the Rain Jr.,” in November at the performing arts center.

“I loved it. I want to do more,” she said.

With “Sister Act,” she can focus on acting, which is helpful because the show was produced in a tight time frame — about a month.

“It has been hard, but if we didn’t have the right group, it might be impossible, but we are all putting in 100 percent effort sharing videos of rehearsal to watch at home, practicing our dancing at home, and it’s all coming together,” she said.

Ms. Thomas said she loves playing the outgoing Sister Mary Patrick, a role made famous by Kathy Najimy in the film by the same name.

But while she respects Ms. Najimy’s work, she said she deliberately avoided watching the film in order to make Mary Patrick her own.

 

Javier Otero is another Queen Creek High School graduate – class of 2007 – who has gone on to work at the Queen Creek Performing Arts Center. As the center’s house technician, he has overseen set construction, microphones and other stage necessities for productions such as “Bye Bye Birdie” and “Pirates of Penzance,” in addition to “Sister Act.” (Wendy Miller/Independent Newsmedia)

 

Mr. Otero almost lives in the theater, he said during an interview.

Before joining the QCPAC staff in 2016, he worked backstage at the performing arts center as a technician for shows such as “Bye Bye Birdie” and “Pirates of Penzance.”

For “Sister Act,” he’s is charge of a crew of about four or five volunteers. He is working with Ms. Abney on the sound board and to make sure the 18 or 20 hand-held and body microphones do their job. He also oversees the set pieces, backdrops and rigging for the show.

The setting of the stage production of “Sister Act” takes place in the 1970s. As a result, audiences are treated to music from the disco era.

“It’s a fun twist,” Ms. Abney said. “There’s a lot of that disco groove and three-part harmony.”

“Sister Act” has its final performance tonight — Jan. 29 — at the Queen Creek Performing Arts Center, 22149 E. Ocotillo Road.

Tickets can be purchased at www.qcpac.com or by calling the box office at 480-987-7469.

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