Performing Arts students from the University of Sunderland are about to ignite the city’s new multi-million-pound entertainment venue with their musical production of Sister Act.

The feel-good comedy is coming to The Fire Station for two nights only – on the 16th and 17th of March – and is the first musical production to be performed at the new state of the art £18 million auditorium, which opened in December last year.

The show is based on the 1992 American hit film starring Whoopi Goldberg and follows the story of a lounge singer forced to join a convent after being placed in a witness protection programme.

Third year student Deborah Taylor-Smith is taking on the role of Deloris van Cartier.

She said: “It feels amazing to be playing the lead role in such an iconic production.

“I’ve watched the film for years and it’s a show that will lead you to be joyous and cheerful from start to finish.”

Deborah, who will be known to many as vintage war-time singer Wor Vera, kept spirits high during the first COVID-19 lockdown with her live renditions of Vera Lynn songs for care home residents, racking up 150 performances in 100 days.

Now, 39-year-old is looking forward to bringing a touch of showbiz to Wearside.

“To be back on stage after such a long time performing outside as my alter ego Wor Vera is an honour,” Deborah, from Hebburn, said.

“It feels fantastic knowing it’s the first musical production to be at the new revamped theatre in Sunderland. The Fire Station has a huge stage, and we will fill it with love, music and laughter.

“It feels awesome transforming from Vera to Whoopi and spreading the love around Sunderland!”

Nick Thompson, 26, from Sunderland, who is playing Lieutenant Eddie Souther in the show, added: “Sister Act is one of the best loved shows and it’s amazing to be a part of it.

“As a performer it’s helping me develop all kinds of skills. It’s building that self-confidence not only in a theatre sense but for outside the theatre as well, to be able to go up and speak to anybody, the confidence to get out there. That’s what you need in life.”

Rachel Emms, Programme Leader for Performing Arts at the University of Sunderland, said: “Working on Sister Act has been a welcome opportunity to return to a more fluid creative way where we don’t need to strictly socially distance.

“Since October rehearsals have been well under way with lots of singing, choreography and script work. We have moved from studio rehearsals to working in The Fire Station, which has been a fantastic experience. It’s been so motivating to work in such a fabulous new venue, which is just a stone’s throw away from campus.

“It’s exciting that our students will be among the first people to be part of the offer at the new venue, and we hope this is the start of a good creative relationship.”

Director of The Fire Station, Tamsin Austin, added: “We’re delighted to welcome University of Sunderland students and their production of Sister Act to our amazing venue.

“It’s important to us that The Fire Station is seen as a community asset where local people can perform and develop. It’s a platform for emerging talent to shine and be inspired by the more experienced acts we can now bring to Sunderland.

“As a core partner of Sunderland Culture, we’re thrilled to be working with University of Sunderland and hope to develop a long and meaningful relationship with both faculty leaders and students.

“And I just can’t wait to see Sister Act!”

Tickets are available here.

The University of Sunderland is supporting MadeAtUni: Creative Sparks, a national campaign to showcase the creative talent produced by UK universities and encourage the Government to promote and support the importance of creativity and creative courses.