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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 23 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 34
Holy rollers - Ta'Rea Campbell works miracles in Sister Act
Arts & Entertainment
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Holy rollers - Ta'Rea Campbell works miracles in Sister Act

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

SISTER ACT
PARAMOUNT THEATRE
Through August 25


The musical adaptation of Sister Act has been called many things, including 'a hit.' Based on the blockbuster movie starring Whoopi Goldberg, who acts as producer for the stage production, the musical got its start in London before coming to the Great White Way. Now on its first national tour, Sister Act has (holy) rolled its way into the Emerald City.

Fans of the movie will still be happy by the changes made for the stage production, as the storyline is still basically the same. It's Christmas Eve 1977 in Philadelphia and Deloris Van Cartier is a B-rate lounge singer tired of going nowhere fast. When she gets fed up with her boyfriend, Curtis, she storms in to give him a piece of her mind and accidentally watches him shoot a henchman. She runs away and is quickly followed. To hide until she can give state evidence against Curtis, Deloris is put into a convent and asked to masquerade as a nun. Immediately clashing with the staunch Mother Superior, Deloris is put in charge of the choir, bringing its members together and giving them a new voice. When their superior singing reaches the media, the nuns are asked to give a choral recital to the Pope just as the gangsters discover Deloris' hiding place and plan to move in to finish her off.

Ta'Rea Campbell is the flashy Deloris. While never becoming a clone of her celluloid predecessor, she does a great job embracing the personality of the gaudy lounge singer. Her voice does complete justice to the loudness and energy of the late-'70s music, and she has control over her instrument as she belts out the campy tunes. She mixes just enough attitude with her sassy way of life and the result is perfect for the role.

A WELL-MATCHED PAIR
Hollis Resnik is the Mother Superior who is clinging to the traditional ways of the church only to find them obliterated by the newcomer. Her droll personality is a good match to the flashy Deloris, and her singing brings out the character very well. Resnik shows the audience her character's instant dislike of her new ward, while allowing Deloris to ingratiate herself into the convent as well as into their lives.

The two male leads are Chester Gregory, playing Eddie Souther, the cop and love interest for Deloris, and Kingsley Leggs, playing Curtis. Gregory's character is the most different from the film - here he's more of a nebbish and he brings an original persona to the man holding a secret torch for Deloris. Leggs's character is the gangster role but he fails to be intimidating & at all. Each line is delivered in a monotonous, deadpan tone that doesn't translate the character's strength or power to the audience.

The ensemble of nuns as a cloister are all fun. Most have their quirky personalities and a few have individually delivered, humorous lines. At first the group sings off-key and aren't very good at harmonizing - something that's difficult for a trained singer - which is what they are supposed to do. Then once 'Sister Mary Clarence' joins in, they blossom. In fact the entire first act is rather slow until, right before the act's finale, Deloris takes over the choir.

As other 'minor' nun characters have their moments to shine in the film, they do also in the stage production. In fact, most of theses characters have been changed with the exception of Sister Mary Patrick, played by Florrie Bagel. She does a good job with this role but unfortunately it is a direct caricature of the film's character (originally played by Kathy Najimy). The role of novice nun Mary Robert has been expanded - a rather mousy character in the movie, she now stands up for what she believes is fair, and does very well in the belting-out number 'The Life I Never Led.'

The choreography was fine, not trying to substitute flash for substance. The lounge numbers are staged well, as are the songs from in the convent chorus. At one point the scene was set with a series of doors, and the audience knew they were in store for a 'Scooby-Doo' type of slapstick chase scene - which was what they got. The timing was good but it fell easily into a predictable series of sight gags and mistaken identities.

JUST GO WITH IT
The musical is fun - there's no doubt about that. It's a turn-off-the-brain-and-enjoy kind of show. There's slapstick humor and predictable predicaments, but the story is fun and enjoyable. The music is by Alan Menken (Little Shop of Horrors, Disney's Beauty and the Beast) with lyrics by Glenn Slater (Disney's Tangled), and most of the songs are well-done and enjoyable. Separate it from the film and you'll enjoy the flashy productions - and laugh out loud a couple of times, at least. Really, how can you go wrong with that?

Sister Act, the musical, is based on the film by the same name. The 1992 movie spawned a highly successful sequel the following year. The musical opened on Broadway in March 2011 and ran for more than 550 performances. It was nominated for five Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Actress, and Best Featured Actress in a Musical.

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