'Sister Act' Brings Divine Comedy to Wharton Center
Fans of the hit 1992 film "Sister Act" rejoice: the musical version, adapted for the London stage in 2009 and brought to Broadway in 2011, is just as delightful and fun as its cinematic inspiration.
"Sister Act: The Musical" brings heavenly music and raises a little hell to the Wharton Center for Performing Arts through February 17, 2013.
The grit of 1990s San Francisco in the film has been replaced on stage with the vibrant, sequin and polyester-filled world of 1978 in Philadelphia. Yet much of the plot remains the same: Deloris Van Cartier, an aspiring singer, witnesses her criminal, married lover shooting a man. When she goes to the police, she discovers that she'll need to go into hiding until she is able to testify in court.
The best hiding place? A nearby convent, where Deloris is disguised as Sister Mary Clarence to the chagrin of Mother Superior. Although the sassy Deloris and reserved Mother Superior clash, Deloris's bad influence on the impressionable nuns of the convent is outweighed by a good one as Deloris takes over the choir.
The result is pure fun, blinged-out disco heavenly bliss.
Ta'Rea Campbell, known for starring as Nala in "The Lion King" on Broadway, portrays Deloris as a mouthy, spunky diva - the perfect foil to Hollis Resnik's pure as snow Mother Superior. Both actresses feed off of each other with precise comedic timing, reminiscent of the head-to-heads between Whoopi Goldberg and Maggie Smith in the film version.
Campbell and Resnik also benefit from being surrounded by a celestial array of talented actors and actresses, who often steal the show with their bravado and commitment to the light-hearted material.
Standouts include many of the boisterous nuns of the convent, a difficult feat when everyone on stage is wearing "penguin suits": Florrie Bagel as Sister Mary Patrick, the bubbly ray of sunshine with the powerful voice; Diane K. Findlay as the stodgy Sister Mary Lazarus, who raps, dances, and drops dry one-liners like comedic anchors; and Lael Van Keurun as the painfully shy Sister Mary Robert, whose life is changed most by the sparkly influence of Deloris.
The men of the show, including the endearing E. Clayton Cornelious as Lt. Eddie "Sweaty Eddie" Souther and gravely-voiced Kingsley Leggs as Deloris's married lover Curtis Jackson, show off their vocal range as well as their comedic chops.
The decision to change the setting and year for the musical adaptation works well for the stage, as splashy numbers like "Take Me to Heaven", "Sunday Morning Fever", and "Fabulous, Baby!" benefit from the colorful, mirror ball spectacle. By the end of the show, the audience is standing, shaking it, and becomes welcomed members of the "Sister Act."
For a sinfully fun night of theater, "Sister Act: The Musical" is a delightful way to spend a few hours. No need for confession the next day.
See "Sister Act: The Musical" at Wharton Center for Performing Arts through Sunday, February 17, 2013. Click here for show and ticket information.