Sister Act proves its possible to turn a popular film into a good stage musical, a rare success among many failed attempts. Its a family-friendly, feel-good show with a knockout cast, easily recommended as an entertaining night out.
Although the time period is shifted from the early 1990s to the late 1970s and the locale from San Francisco to Philadelphia, the musical keeps the plot and characters essentially the same as in the film, trusting its success and giving the audience what it came to see.
The show is still about nightclub singer Deloris who accidentally witnesses a mobster murder and hides in a convent for protection. Theres still the strict Mother Superior who despairs over Deloris real-world ways among the sheltered nuns. And the two still come together after Deloris takes over the failing nuns choir and turns it into a soul-filled, rock-the-rafters sensation.
The songs by lyricist Glenn Slater and composer Alan Menken (both veterans of Disney films and musicals) are clever nods to 1970s disco and R&B, with some Sondheim-like wordplay in the Mother Superiors numbers. Cheri and Bill Steinkellners dialog slyly lobs insider jests about religion and showbiz but also indulges in easy laughs and silly slapstick reminiscent of 1970s sitcoms. The plot doesnt move very quickly because so many characters must have their own songs, but the casts projection of joy and humanity keeps the show fully engaging.
TaRea Campbells Deloris is sassy and self-centered to begin with, changing heart believably as she discovers true sisterhood and true love. Her appealing voice rings out in her personal numbers and rocks out leading the revamped choir. Hollis Resniks comic timing and deadpan expressions make the Mother Superior lovably crusty without ever overplaying. Florrie Bagels giddy Mary Patrick and Lael Van Keurens shy Mary Robert head the hilarity of nuns unleashed.
E. Clayton Cornelious winningly pulls in the audience as policeman Eddie, secretly in love with Deloris. His I Could Be That Guy is a production highlight. Kingsley Leggs is suitably scary as murderous Curtis, while Todd A. Horman, Ernie Pruneda and Charles Barksdale garner many laughs as Curtis bumbling henchmen.
Klara Zieglerovas stained glass windows and gothic arches gleam under Natasha Katzs brilliant lighting. And Lez Brotherstons dazzling costumes provide several show-stopping effects.