Someday Productions LLC and Pillow Talking Blog are pleased to present the following review of SISTER ACT at Broad Brook Opera House
Through February 25th
I am a huge fan of Whoopi Goldberg and of the 1992 musical comedy film Sister Act in which she starred; it was written by Joseph Howard (pseudonym for a frustrated Paul Rudnick who, due to creative differences, didn’t want to be credited) and directed by Emile Ardolino (who also directed Dirty Dancing). And who wouldn’t be? Whoopi is an icon and the film was hysterically funny and went on to make Bravo’s The 100 Funniest Movies list. It also was one of the most financially successful comedies of the early ‘90s. With that kind of acclaim, it’s no wonder that it also became a highly successful stage musical premiering in Pasadena, CA in 2006, in the West End in 2009, then on Broadway in 2011 with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Glenn Slater, and book by Bill and Cheri Steinkellner with additional book material by Douglas Carter Beane.
Now the Opera House Players have taken on this “Divine Musical Comedy” at Broad Brook Opera House. Featuring a cast of thousands (okay, not really – but a cast of 20 is quite large!), this production is full of energy and spunk, just as the colorful characters are. In the unlikeliest of circumstances, everyone reaps the rewards when a wild woman on the run hides out in a convent. Deloris Van Cartier, a larger-than-life lounge singer, sees her slimy boyfriend, Curtis, kill a man. For her own protection, the police (especially an infatuated Eddie) place Deloris in the ragged convent. Despite a rocky start, she ultimately uses her musical talents and jubilant inspiration to brighten the lives of the women (who soon become her “sisters”), restore the anemic choir, and ensure that the church itself gets a community facelift. In return, the nuns help Deloris discover who she really is.
There are so many fun personalities behind the black robes and habits – Deloris, the convent implant (played by Nekita Waller), is loud and brazen. The uptight Mother Superior (a fantastic Jenna Levitt) struggles to keep things running smoothly despite the convent’s upheaval in Deloris’s untamed presence. Sister Mary Robert is the young postulant (played by the beautiful songbird Saralynne Brown) who comes out of her shell with Deloris’s help. Sister Mary Patrick (played to the hilt by Tracy Funke) is a spit-fire. Sister Mary Lazaraus (Becca Greene-Van Horn) is cranky but shows what she’s got when she has to (she’s quite the rapper)! The rest of the sisters also are pure delight – Marty Martin of Tours (Tammy Young) and Mary Theresa (Amy Scott Rucci). And it’s not just the nuns who break out of their humdrum habits – so does Monsignor O’Hara (played by Jim Metzler) who goes from quiet and unassuming to virtually a Las Vegas showman.
Thugs, Curtis (Dennis J. Scott), TJ (Alex Bilodeau), Joey (Tim Grant), and Pablo (Michael Graham Morales), provide not just the tension but a great deal of the comic relief, as does the enamored but nervous police officer Eddie (Michael Scott III). Shout outs also to the rest of the cast: Erin Dugan (Ensemble), Sara Fabrizio (Michelle/Ensemble), Reva Kleppel (Ensemble), Julianne Thoulin (Ensemble), Sarah Van Horn (Tina/Ensemble), Joshua “Schwa” Hamre (Ernie/Ensemble), and Tilly Screams (Drag Queen).
With fun and fantastic musical numbers such as “Take Me to Heaven,” “It’s Good to Be a Nun,” and “I Could Be that Guy” (kudos to Kim Aliczi as Music Director/pianist, Steve Anderson on brass, Matt Patton on guitar, Chris Nikirk on keyboards, and Dan Volpe on drums); along with some pretty feisty choreography courtesy of Chelsea Derby, this is a non-stop, foot-stomping production. Shout-outs also to Francisco Aguas for set design, Moonyean Field for costumes, Erica Romeo and Kaytlyn Vandeloecht for hair and makeup, Carly DellaPenna and Diane St. Amand for lighting design, and Bill Baronas for sound, as well as the rest of the production crew.
While Sister Act may not take you to directly to the heavens above, it will certainly take you to someplace “Fabulous, Baby!” Check it out at the beautiful Broad Brook Opera House before they move to their new digs at the end of the season!
If life was more like musical theatre, wouldn’t life be grand?– Neil Patrick Harris
I wish I had thought of the above quote to open my review of Sister Act, but I did not. I lifted it directly from the notes from director, Cheryl Connell – which, considering that the original film version of Sister Act was the subject of two major infringement lawsuits – seemed somewhat apropos. The thought behind the quote is so on the money, especially in the confusing, complicated and often chaotic world in which we inhabit. According to Ms. Connell, “[r]ight now so many of us are distressed by the divisions we see and feel all around us, and Sister Act speaks to the important truth that every human being is more than what they appear to be on the outside.” In her capable directorial hands, the Opera House Players, Inc.’s (OHP) version of Sister Act now playing at the Broad Brook Opera House has captured the essence of her profound observation. More than just a fish out of water tale, Sister Act delivers the message that we are all special in our own way and, if we take the time to look past our limiting habits (pun intended), there’s a diverse world of opportunities, experiences, and relationships from which we can benefit.
Sister Act started out as a top-grossing film in 1992 starring Whoopi Goldberg. It subsequently was turned into a musical for the stage with a book by Cheri Steinkellner & Bill Steinkellner (additional book material by Douglas Carter Beane), music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Glen Slater. As the only witness to a murder, nightclub singer and street savvy, straight-talking Doloris Van Cartier is smuggled into a local convent by the authorities for her protection until the time of the trial. Disguised as a nun, her rather lax lifestyle habits serve as a constant annoyance to the rigidly proper Mother Superior. It’s Kindergarten Cop meets Change of Habit as worlds collide.
The play is not an easy one to pull off successfully. It has a large cast and a plethora of moving parts. Despite spatial limitations, the OHP are able to accommodate the large cast and provide some nice musical numbers (thank you, Kim Aliczi, Musical Director) and some wild hoofing – there’s nothing like a chorus line of dancing nuns in full regalia (thank you, Chelsea Derby, Choreographer). Although the audio via the lavalier microphones were a bit inconsistent at times, the nuances of the lines and songs remained intact.
While the talented cast is too large to give individual nods to everyone, special shout outs must go to Nekita Waller (Deloris Van Cartier), Michael Scott III (Eddie Souther a.k.a. “Sweaty Eddie”), Dennis J. Scott (Curtis), OPH staple Michael Graham Morales (Pablo), Jenna Levitt (Mother Superior), Amy Scott Rucci (Mary Theresa) and Saralynne Brown (Mary Robert) who totally nailed the musical number, “The Life I Never Led.”
For a different kind of religious experience – one filled with music, song, dance and a lot of laughs – as Shakespeare said, “Get thee to the nunnery at Broad Brook Opera House to see Sister Act.” (Okay, so I took a few liberties with Shakespeare’s line – it’s only to underscore the message of my Homily.)