Review – Sister Act
First, I’d like to thank God for me being alive. I’d like to thank Word Press and my theme designer. I’d like to thank the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and Diana Roth, who is the greatest. I’d like to thank the makers of Chrysler for building a car that can get me places. And I’d like to thank the makers of the Benedum Center for providing such a beautiful stage for the movie turned musical, Sister Act. Without any of you, my Tuesday night would have sucked so bad! But instead, because of all of you, I got to see an upbeat, joyous, laugh-out-loud production full of glitz, glamour and sequins. Because of you (imagine me opening my arms wide, to encompass you all) my previously bad day was turned into an energetic, wonderful whirlwind of music, love and laughter.
(Applause. Applause. You like me, you really like me!)
Sister Act is Broadway’s acclaimed musical comedy based on the smash-hit film. When disco diva Deloris Van Cartier witnesses a crime, the cops hide her in the last place anyone would think to look—a convent! Under the suspicious watch of Mother Superior, Deloris helps her fellow sisters find their voices as she unexpectedly rediscovers her own.*
Disco diva Deloris is played with gusto and verve and hilarious ingenuity by Ta’Rea Campbell. Every line was double-packed and delivered with a whammy. When Officer Eddie Souther (played with charming, if slightly Steve Urkle-like awkwardness by E. Clayton Cornelious) says that Dolores has to hide out, she gasps, “You mean I have to go incognegro?” I think it took the audience 20 seconds to settle down from that one.
Even the bad guys are hysterical, led by Kingsley Leggs’ dastardly Curtis. They sang and vamped just as good as anyone else. Todd A. Horman (Joey), Ernie Pruneda (Pablo) and Charles Barksdale (TJ) were especially perfect in their number “Lady in the Long Black Dress”. They’re singing about their moves (y’know, their mooooves) that they are going to try out on the nuns…to seduce them…getwhati’msayin??? It’s all a ploy to get close to Dolores though, so then they can kill her….which is strangely, funnily and ironically detailed in Curtis’ song “When I Find My Baby”.
The nuns, led by Mother Superior (Hollis Resnik) also got their share of laughs, and their share of big numbers. A particular standout was Lael Van Keuren’s Sister Mary Robert’s “The Life I Never Led”. It was about the only song that didn’t have a disco beat behind it or riff off a Soul Train standard. It was pure melody, pure Broadway, pure Menken (he who has penned many a Disney classics).
Director Jerry Zaks does an amazing job with Cheri Steinkellner and Bill Steinkellner’s book and capably handles the large cast, the many wigs and costumes, and the massive set designs that stretch from floor to literally ceiling. And those set designs…bless Klara Zieglerova (scenic designer) and Natasha Katz (lighting designer) hearts – they were usually all blinged out in one way or another. I love a good dose of glitter and glamour mixed in with my musicals!
All in all, the heavens opened up with this musical. It’s light and easy and family-friendly. The songs are infectious enough and the energy in which they are sung easily overshadows any lyric that leans a bit on the, shall we say, syrupy side. This aint no Les Miserables, and for that, I’m thankful. Sometimes, you just want a musical that ends well for everybody!
The show runs now through February 10. For tickets, go here.
*Plot summary taken from the Cultural Trust website.