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In "Sister Act", Actress Finds Connection to Lead Character's Desire to Be Discovered

Disco diva Deloris Van Cartier, crowned "Lady Fabulous" of 1978, decides to break up with her gangster boyfriend when he doesn’t get her a promised record deal. Too bad her timing couldn’t be worse – she finds him just in time to witness a murder and she’s on the lam – and in protective custody in the convent.
 
That’s where the action begins in Sister Act, hit movie-turned-hit musical and playing at Cincinnati Music Theatre through November 18 (tickets are going fast).
 
In the central role of Deloris (a.k.a. Sister Mary Clarence) is Adia Dobbins, who spent two and a half years years touring as Nala in The Lion King (which she calls “the hardest job and most amazing job” she’s ever had) after graduating from College-Conservatory of Music (degrees in jazz and music ed.).
 
Still, “I had to hit the re-set button.”
 
She decided to put her master’s degree in business admin. to work and embarked on a career that’s included non-profit arts management, banking, diversity management consulting, human resources, and corporate law.
 
She tried cities around the U.S. and settled down in Cincinnati in 2014.
 
Steady paycheck, yes, but Dobbins is always going to be singing. She’ll be showing off her impressive pipes (can she raise the rafters? oh, yeah.) as the leader of Sister Act’s church choir.
 
Dobbins never stopped writing original songs. Finding her musical signature, “took me longer than I would have liked,” to realize it’s everything she’s learned and loves.
 
There are elements of “gospel, jazz, classical musical theater – god music is good music!” She promises Cincinnati will be hearing some of what she’s written in 2018, details to come.
 
And Dobbins has never stopped performing. She’s popped up at the Netherland and clubs around town. She is part of Cincinnati Symphony community choir Tropical Roots and this year represented the CSO at the mic at a Reds game, singing the National Anthem.
 
A couple of years ago she decided to audition for Showbiz Players’ final production, The Civil War at The Carnegie, directed by Mike Fielder. She won the role but, Dobbins says, “I didn’t think I got it – there’s a lot of talent in this town!”
 
Fielder is director-choreographer of Sister Act and invited Dobbins to audition.
 
Musical theater, notes Dobbins, “is an itch that’s never going away,” but she has to “find parts that are right for me, that connect with me.” Like Deloris. And like Eliza Doolittle and Marian the Librarian and other beloved heroines from Broadway’s Golden Age.
 
And she still “loves to sing more than anything.” One thing Adia and Deloris have in common: “She’s trying to get discovered. That reminds me of me.”
 
When America’s Got Talent holds a local audition later this month, Dobbins will be there.
 
Sister Act, through Nov. 18. Cincinnati Music Theatre, Jarson Kaplan Theatre, Aronoff Center for the Arts, 650 Walnut St., Downtown Cincinnati. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets $26 and $23 (plus $3.20 fee). 513-621- 2787 and here.
 
Written by Jackie Demaline, RCN Arts