'Sister Act' makes successful shift from film to stage

CorrespondentMay 15, 2013 

From left, Florrie Bagel, Lael van Keuren and Ta'Rea Campbell in "Sister Act."

COURTESY OF JOAN MARCUS

  • Details

    What: “Sister Act” – national Broadway tour.

    Where: Durham Performing Arts Center, 123 Vivian St.

    When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Saturday; 12:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. May 19.

    Tickets: $20-$100

    Info: 919-680-2787 or dpacnc.com

“Sister Act” proves it’s possible to turn a popular film into a good stage musical, a rare success among many failed attempts. It’s 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 1990’s to the late 1970’s 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. There’s 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 1970’s disco and R&B, with some Sondheim-like wordplay in the Mother Superior’s numbers. Cheri and Bill Steinkellner’s dialog slyly lobs insider jests about religion and showbiz but also indulges in easy laughs and silly slapstick reminiscent of 1970’s sitcoms. The plot doesn’t move very quickly because so many characters must have their own songs, but the cast’s projection of joy and humanity keeps the show fully engaging.

Ta’Rea Campbell’s 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 Resnik’s comic timing and deadpan expressions make the Mother Superior lovably crusty without ever overplaying. Florrie Bagel’s giddy Mary Patrick and Lael Van Keuren’s 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 Zieglerova’s stained glass windows and gothic arches gleam under Natasha Katz’s brilliant lighting. And Lez Brotherston’s dazzling costumes provide several show-stopping effects.

Dicks: music_theater@lycos.com

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