Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
Sister Act, The Musical
Deloris is in the witness protection program because she saw her boyfriend Curtis Shank shoot a man. Police Sgt. Eddie Souther, who has had a crush on Deloris since high school (where she remembers him as Sweaty Eddie) stashes her in a convent which needs the money. The conflict in the convent is between Deloris, now Sister Mary Clarence, and Mother Superior, a traditional nun of the old school. Deloris gets her chance at choir practice to set the muted plainsong of those glum nuns on the path to gospel music, where they can literally spread the "good news" (the Biblical translation of gospel) to a wider audience.
So much for plot. The book by Cheri Steinkellner and Bill Steinkellner, based on the movie by Joseph Howard, takes the clichés and runs with them, feinting and twisting so deftly that the more ludicrous patches in a story that's far fetched to begin with hardly matter. What matters in a musical is the music and not the production.
The program reads set in Philadelphia "some time ago" but it's definitely before 1960 as the music is definitely from that era. On the musical score card, the ones that should definitely stay include "Raise Your Voice" and "How I Got The Calling" sung by Deloris and the Nuns. The brothers more than hold their own against the sisters. "I Could Be That Guy" is a surprising show-stopper delivered with low-key yearning by David Jennings who makes a wistful comic hero out of Sgt. Eddie, and "Lady In The Long Black Dress" is a sly stand-alone ballad by Shank’s wonderful gangsta trio, TJ (Melvin Abston), Bones (Danny Stiles) and Dinero (Dan Domenech). "Dress To Kill" sung by Curtis Shank (Harrison White) takes power dressing to a whole new level. You are what you wear!
The end of Act I needs a second look. After Sister Mary Clarence’s break-through choir practice with the nuns culminating in the rafter-shaking "Raise Your Voice", we don’t need "Take Me To Heaven." which is sung by the nuns’ choir and reprises the same song sung at the beginning of the Act by Deloris and her lounge singers Kay-T (Patina Renea Miller) and Larosa (Badia Farha), but with a decidedly different slant. As for a message, it's somewhere in this familiar concept but it comes at the wrong time.
Dawnn Lewis plays Deloris with sizzle, vim and a voice which combines a belter’s power with a chanteuse’s sweetness. As the Mother Superior, Elizabeth Ward Land with her pure soprano follows the nun’s arc from steely determination to a truer acceptance of spirituality. She has a look that’s reminiscent of Glenn Close and she’s not the only evocative presence in the choir. As Sister Mary Lazarus, Audrie Neenan bears a striking resemblance to the late great comedienne Mary Wickes and as Sister Mary Patrick, Amy K. Murray rouses echoes of Nicely-Nicely Johnson, the wonderful character in Guys and Dolls. Beth Malone plays the little novice Sister Mary Robert with gamin charm though gets a little shrill in the upper register. All these Sisters have wonderful acting chops tthat make their scenes a delight.
The brisk jubilation of Peter Schneider’s direction doesn’t miss a beat, abetted by Marguerite Derricks’ choreography. David Potts’ scenic design incorporates descending discs that represent stained glass windows but have a sneaking resemblance to record discs.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide
At This Theater