When it comes to musicals based on movies, it’s very simple - they’re either good or they’re bad. When it comes to "Sister Act," it’s just as simple -- it’s good. "Sister Act" is light and fun and a very enjoyable night out at the theater.
We’re not talking deep stuff here. It’s a silly show with a big heart and, in the case of the tour now in Dallas, some seriously big talent too. This is an excellent thing since both the book and the music are only skin deep and, as you would expect, you need a great cast to bring it alive.
The story is pretty basic. A young woman, Deloris Van Cartier, wants to be a star, but the one man who stands to give her a break, won’t. He’s a married man that she’s sleeping with, of course. And, it turns out, he’s a gangster. She witnesses him shooting a man and now she’s his next target.
So, a local church, complete with convent agrees to take her in. Naturally, hilarity ensues. The church is home to a lousy sounding choir. But, not to fear, their new "sister" quickly whips them into shape. The church, naturally, is going bankrupt and is about to be sold. Good news though, Deloris saves the day by filling the pews with people coming to see the hot new choir.
Sprinkle in a Mother Superior who doesn’t like Deloris and then finds her heart melted in spite of herself and a softie cop, Eddie Souther, who has been in love with Deloris since grade school and you have a super sweet story with all of the necessary ducks in a row.
It’s the killer cast that makes this show. Ta’Rea Campbell plays Deloris and has a voice that shakes the rafters. She did a particularly impressive job of growing from the lackluster performer at the beginning of the show to a true diva by the end. Eddie Souther, played by Dashaun Young was utterly charming and had no trouble commanding the stage in "I Could Be That Guy."
The lead nuns -- Mary Lazarus (who can only be described as the intellectual Jewish nun) played by Karen Elliott; Mary Theresa played by Erin Henry; Mary Patrick played by Florrie Bagel (channeling Kathy Najimy, it has to be said); Mary Robert played by Lael Van Keuren (who looks like "Mad Men’s" Peggy Olson); Mary Martin-of-Tours played by Erin Wilson, and, of course, Mother Superior herself played by Hollis Resnik -- were absolute show stoppers.
Not only do they all boast impressive singing voices, they also make a knockout comedy team. Perhaps the only thing funnier than their antics was Deloris talking about going "IncogNegro," the head-bopping altar boys seriously getting down, and the conductor "playing" the Pope at the show’s end.
Now for the less than glowing part. It has to be said that the show had one heck of a slow start. And the number "When I Find My Baby" is as offensive as it is unentertaining.
From the lyrics:
"I’m gonna drown that girl!?
Or disembowel that girl! ?
Or give her skull a big dent?
with a blunt instrument!"
Regardless of the context, there’s simply no room for the off-handed treatment of violence against women. Ever.
Serious, thought-provoking theater this is not. But the theater doesn’t always have to expand the mind. Sometimes all it has to do is turn up the sides of the mouth. And "Sister Act" has no trouble doing that. In fact, it just might warm the heart while it’s at it too.