Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sister Act @ Broadway Theatre

Get out your habits! Find your rosaries! And, have your yard stick handy! Sister Act the Musical has arrived on Broadway! Based off of the hit 1992 film of the same that starred Whoopi Goldberg, now serving as the show’s producer, in the title role, Sister Act is back and funnier than ever. With all original songs by Alan Menken and Glenn Slater, this “divine” new musical shines as one of Broadway’s best new musicals. There is nun-thing else like it!
 This sacramental new musical tells the story of Deloris Van Cartier and lounge singer desperately trying to make it big. After discovering that her lover, Curtis Jackson, has no intention to leave his wife and make her a star, Deloris decides to pick up, pack up, and try to make it on her own. Before she can do this, however, she witnesses Curtis murder one of his own employees. Rattled by this, Deloris makes a break for it and runs straight to the Philadelphia Police Station where she is reunited with “Sweaty Eddie” Souther with whom she used to go to elementary school with; and, who is now working as the main investigator in this crime. Eddie quickly realizes that Deloris must go into hiding; and, he knows the perfect spot – the local convent. Led my Mother Superior and Monsignor O’Hara, this new hideaway for Deloris is facing problems of its own – nuns who want more in life, the danger of closing due to low population at mass, and a choir that is anything but heavenly. As different events unfold, every character is moved in unexpecting ways learning that God has a plan for each and every single of us.
This ensemble piece is led by the fabulous Patina Miller (stared as the original Deloris in the West End production of Sister Act) as the woman in hiding, Deloris Van Cartier. Miller takes the audience to heaven and back with her soulful voice, powerful acting, and stunning comedic timing. While making the part her own, Miller still pays homage to the work of the great Whoopi Goldberg. Her performance is fresh, upbeat, and an all around joy to watch. Playing opposite Miller is the old school Mother Superior played by Victoria Clark (Tony Award winner for The Light in the Piazza). Clark gives a glorous performance - allowing the audience to see all of the sides of this "tough cookie" - religious, stirn, doubtful, and caring.  Carrying the male side of things is Kingsley Leggs (from Broadway’s The Color Purple) as the leader of crime, Curtis, and Chester Gregory (from Broadway’s Cry Baby and Tarzan) as the knight in shining armor, Eddie. Leggs and Gregory give stunning performances as the ex and soon to be love interests of Deloris. Gregory brings down the house with his wanna be love ballad “I Could Be That Guy” – he shows off his vocal and dance chops all while being surrounded by a bunch of corner bums. Spreading the Good News is Sarah Bolt (from Broadway’s Wicked), Marla Mindelle (from Broadway’s South Pacific), and Audrie Neenan (from Broadway’s Oklahoma! and Picnic) as the pack of nuns roaming inside the walls of the convent. These three women provide non-stop laughs throughout the entire play – making pun on everything from religion to theatre to language. Holding down the fort of the church is Fred Applegate (from Broadway’s La Cage aux Folles and Young Frankenstein) as Monsignor O’Hara. Applegate truly shines in this role as he goes from figure of God to Dance Club MC as the play moves forward. This wonderful ensemble brings this new musical to Broadway in a big way.
Not borrowing any songs from the movie, Sister Act has brilliant music and lyrics by Alan Menken (score for Broadway’s The Little Shop of Horrors and Disney’s Beauty and the Beast) and Glenn Slater (Broadway’s The Little Mermaid and London’s Love Never Dies). Together, Menken and Slater created a rich score complete with disco hits, soulful ballets, and hip church hymns. Bringing this score into the light is director Jerry Zaks (currently represented on Broadway with The Addams Family). Zaks does a stunning job moving the story along smoothly amidst the intricate set changes and large ensemble numbers. Zaks creates wonderful images that are enhanced by the stunning designs of Klara Zieglerova (Broadway’s Jersey Boys) for the set, Natasha Katz (Broadway’s Aida and Elf) for the lighting, and Lez Brotherston (Broadway’s Swan Lake) for the costumes. Together these three designers work together to bring the slums of Philadelphia’s back streets, the dreariness of the convent, and the construction of the church to life with hints of the glamorous disco clubs of the 70s. The picture painted is absolutely stunning – allowing Sister Act to take its place as one of Broadway’s new smash hits.
Whether or not you love the movie and know the lyrics to every song or you have never even heard of the movie, you must see this show. Sister Act the Musical arrives on Broadway at the absolute perfect time – a time when everyone just needs a good laugh. Simply go to the theatre, relax, laugh, and be taken to heaven!

Review By: James Russo & Ryan Oliveti

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