CENTERVILLE — Sister Act the Musical at CenterPoint Legacy Theatre, directed by Danny Inkley, is lively, entertaining, and spirited. As a long time fan of the Sister Act movie and sequel, I did not know if the stage version would live up to the hit movie. I was surprised and delighted at the boisterous and playful production of Sister Act at CenterPoint Legacy Theatre. The night was full of nun puns and play on words that I wish I could go back and catch them all again.
Sister Act the Musical (with book by Cheri Steinkellner and Bill Steinkellner, music by Alan Menken, and lyrics by Glenn Slater) is adapted from the popular 1992 film staring Whoopi Goldberg. However, instead of being set in 1992 Reno, the play is set in 1978 Philadelphia. Fans of the movie will also find new songs and a few twists in the plot along the way.
Deloris Van Cartier is a lounge singer who trades her blue fur “Smurf coat” for a nun’s habit “penguin dress” after she witnesses a murder committed by her gangster boyfriend Curtis. Deloris goes into hiding as a nun in the Queen of Angels Cathedral. In a departure from the movie, police officer Eddie is an old school mate of Deloris and dreams of being her hero. To the dismay of Mother Superior at the convent, Deloris cracks jokes, swears, and eventually energizes the nuns through song and dance. However, Curtis is still looking for Deloris and knows that she can’t stay cooped up for long.
Raven Flowers leads the cast by playing Deloris Van Cartier. Flowers is not new to the role of Deloris, having played the part previously at Hale Centre Theatre and Barter Theater in Abingdon, VA. Flowers has an incredible voice that easily transitions from speaking to the rifts and power of her soul songs. She commands the stage and is a talented actress. Her mixed up and unruly prayers when she first comes to the convent are delivered with wit and comic finesse.
Mother superior is played by Hazel Rowe who is well cast and has great comedic timing. Rowe is very convincing as the head nun of the convent with desires to keep things the way they have always been. “I Haven’t Got a Prayer” performed by Rowe was heavenly, even though she is pleading for her prayers to be answered and for Deloris to go away.
Eddie Souther (played by Craig Williams) was my favorite male character of the show. Known as “Sweaty Eddie,” Williams plays the awkward love sick cop very well. I thoroughly enjoyed his song “I Could Be That Guy” and was not expecting the costume changes and backup singers to pop out of the homeless people’s shopping carts. I did wish that I could hear his part in the end of “Sunday Morning Fever,” though. The rest of the cast was so loud I couldn’t hear Williams.
Watching the nuns turn from meek and tone deaf to mojo dancing, rapping, bling-ed out nuns is enjoyable. Each nun has their own personality and character. From the Young Mary Robert (played by Langley Hayman), to the older Mary Theresa (played by Chris Brown), this group of nuns had me wishing I could convert and join in Mary Clarence’s choir. Hayman is timid and demure, but powerful and dynamic in her song, “The Life I Never Lived.” Brown is enjoyable to watch as the older nun dancing and trying to keep up with the others and take out the thugs with her cane.
Costume design supervisor Tammis Boam and costume designer Rachael Lindsay created amazing costumes. Details, from TJ’s platform boots, to the Monsignor O’Hara’s over the top Rapping Priest costumes, to the bedazzled 70’s prison outfits were all fabulous. The hard work they put into the many nun costumes and sequined habits does not go unnoticed.
The projections and sets (designed by Joshua Roberts) and lighting (designed by Colin Skip Wilson) easily transport the audience back to the 1970s. The wallpaper, wall phones, clock, and props like the period Doritos bag and the TV with tinfoil antenna, were all great details. The projections were fabulous including the stain glass windows that were shown on the theatre ceiling so that even the people in the balcony could enjoy them. However, there were a few glitches with the projection scenery on the stage that were a little distracting at times.
I brought my 14-year-old daughter along with me. She enjoyed the show a lot, but did get a little uncomfortable during “Lady in the Long Black Dress” as she is old enough to understand most of the innuendos. And singing about seducing a nun is just inappropriate, although funny for this show.
I was a little disappointed in the opening number of the show. It could have started off a little louder and with a bigger punch. However, the musical ends with an elaborate production number, “Spread the Love Around,” that redeems the play.
Overall, Sister Act the Musical was a happening night at the theatre, and I would recommend it as a great night out. As Monsignor O’Hara says in the play, “If you see only one Roman Catholic mass this season, let this be it.”