Disco meets Gospel in Sister Act
Where were you in ’92? No doubt you took in the movie Sister Act, a surprise hit starring Whoopi Goldberg. It was great fun, filling cinemas, becoming a popular rental, and eventually a TV favourite. The sequel was almost as good.
Well, the live stage version, a Broadway tour currently running at the Ed Mirvish Theatre, is almost as good as the original movie, too. A few changes were made in the translation from screen to stage. Instead of being a Vegas show girl, the main character, Deloris, is a hopeful young starlet, dating the local thug who claims he’ll kick-start her career when she’s ready.
The story has been moved back to the 1970s in Philadelphia and has a disco theme, which in itself provides some of the laughs. Like the movie, Deloris witnesses her boyfriend kill someone and she goes to the police. The cop happens to be a classmate she knew back in high school, Sweaty Eddie. He tells her she’s in danger and hides her in a decaying convent where the church is slated to be sold off. Deloris goes incognito as Sister Mary Clarence, livens up the choir, and brings back the parishioners. In doing so, she gains publicity which alerts the hoodlums as to her whereabouts and they come after her. Eddie saves her and the Pope comes to hear the choir.
This show has amazing singing with a happy ending, and the costumes are wonderful – never have habits been so glittery and bejeweled.
Mother Superior (Hollis Resnik) portrays her frustration well. Florrie Bagel as Sister Mary Patrick is an exact copy of her movie counterpart: round-faced, smiling and giggling, she provides many of the laughs. Sister Mary Lazarus (Diane J. Findlay) is hilarious as the elderly piano player and Mary Robert, the young postulant (Lael Van Keuren), has an excellent voice and belts heartily.
The cop, Sweaty Eddie, gets everyone’s attention with an amazing costume change right on stage before our eyes. He goes from police uniform to white disco suit in one smooth move.
The three sidekicks of the murdering thug, Joey (Todd A. Horman), Pablo (Ernie Pruneda) and nephew T.J. (Charles Barksdale) form a hilarious trio, all of them good comedic actors and singers.
Ta’rea Campbell who has stars as Deloris (aka Sister Mary Clarence) has an amazing voice and the ability to belt all the big tunes. But she doesn’t have the sassy attitude and confidence to really stand out in this important role. I know it’s an unfair comparison, but she is certainly no Whoopi Goldberg. There’s only one Whoopi, but unfortunately, this performance didn’t even come close.
Nevertheless, it’s a fun show with some catchy disco-gospel, praise the Lord! It’s a feel- good production that the whole family can enjoy.
Sister Act continues with eight shows a week at Ed Mirvish Theatre until November 4. Call Ticket King 416-872-1212 or 1-800-461-3333 or visit www.mirvish.com for tickets.
Music by Alan Menken
Lyrics by Glenn Slater
Book by Cheri Steinkellner & Bill Steinkellner
Based on Touchstone Pictures Motion Picture Sister Act
Directed by Jerry Zaks
Choreographed by Anthony Van Laast
Performed by Ta’rea Campbell and company
Ed Mirvish Theatre, Toronto
October 2 to November 4, 2012
Reviewed by Mary Alderson