Sister Act: Suzart Productions Puts on an Entertaining Show

Reviewed by Iris Winston

 

Photo: Suzart Producttions

Book by Cheri Steinkellner and Bill Steinkellner
Music by Alan Menken
Lyrics by Glenn Slater
Suzart Productions
Directed by Ellen Seguin

From gangster’s moll to cop’s heartthrob, Deloris leaves seedy discos and bars for the peace behind convent walls — almost.

Based on the 1992 movie starring Whoopi Goldberg, Sister Act is set in 1970s Philadelphia, where nightclub singer hopeful Deloris Van Cartier sees her gangster boyfriend commit murder, so putting her own life in danger. Her police officer admirer arranges for her to spend time in protective custody in a cash-strapped convent — a location as uncomfortable for her as it is for the Mother Superior who must keep her under wraps. But, as the sisters soon discover, the Lord works in mysterious ways, especially when Deloris turns the catastrophic chorus of nuns into a powerhouse choir worthy of performing for the Pope.

Unlikely as the plot is, this slightly sacrilegious and occasionally vulgar comedy with book by Cheri and Bill Steinkellner, music by Alan Menken (of Little Shop of Horrors and Beauty and the Beast fame) and lyrics by Glenn Slater, is at its best in presenting the sisterhood and warmth that develops between Deloris and the choir of nuns.

And it is the fellowship and enthusiasm among the performers in the Suzart Productions show, as directed by Ellen Seguin, that is evident from the outset. They are clearly having a ball with the material and the caricatures they present.

There are a number of high points, particularly such numbers as Christopher Natuik’s rendering of I Could Be That Guy, complete with very clever costume alterations, and Sonja Milsom’s beautifully sung I Haven’t Got a Prayer.

Stephanie Jones has fun as Deloris, but, despite being in fine voice, is periodically drowned out by an over-enthusiastic orchestra under the uncompromising baton of Chris Lucas. Milsom is an excellent foil for Jones as the strict Mother Superior and Emma Woodside delivers a clear characterization and a powerful rendition of The Life I Never Led as postulant Sister Mary Robert. Other standouts among the nuns are the bubbly Emily Seguin as Sister Mary Patrick and the straightforward Lesley Hammil as Sister Mary Lazarus. But it is the well-choreographed routines by the group of nuns that provide some of the most amusing moments.

There is some bad news in terms of uneven pacing because of slow set changes and occasional lack of attention to detail. For example, if actors are going to double in other roles as congregation members, they distinctive hairdos (TJ and Curtis, in particular) should be under cover in a hat or wig. And , in general, comedy works best when it is taken seriously, so a little less caricature and a little more characterization would be more effective.

But the overwhelming impression of a good time being had by all on stage spills over to the audience. Sister Act may not be one for the memory books, but it is entertaining while it is happening.

Sister Act continues at Centrepointe’s Studio Theatre to May 28.

Director: Ellen Seguin

Musical director: Chris Lucas

Choreographer: Sarah Dee

Set: Christy Bindhardt

Lighting: Don Douglas

Sound: Nicolas Alain

Costumes: Tracy Byers Reid and Maureen Russell

Cast:

Deloris Van Cartier………………………….Stephanie Jones

Mother Superior……………………………..Sonja Milsom

Sister Mary Robert (postulant)…………….Emma Woodside

Sister Mary Patrick…………………………….Emily Seguin

Sister Mary Lazarus……………………………Lesley Hammil

Sister Mary Martin-of-Tours…………………..Mary Schmeider

Sister Mary Theresa……………………………Jennifer Grimsey

Sister Mary Catherine………………………….Kiersten Hanly

Sister Mary Dorothea………………………….Shanna Jacklin

Sister Mary Gilbert……………………………Lili Roussakis

Sister Mary Beatrice…………………………..Mary Dupres

Sister Mary Francis……………………………Lori Sops

Sister Mary Angus…………………………….Tara St. Pierre

Monsignor O’Hara…………………………….Jim Tanner

Altar boys…………………………………….Zander Bone, Tim Milsom

Eddie Souther…………………………………Christopher Natuik

Curtis………………………………………….Charles Moir

TJ………………………………………………Troy Arsenian

Joey……………………………………………Mark Seguin

Pablo…………………………………………..Liam Gosson

Michelle……………………………………….Anna Seguin

Tina……………………………………………Stephanie Fukumoto

Ernie…………………………………………..Morris Rothman

Ensemble: Evie Cohen, Christine Pineau, Steve Vessely, Elaine Villeneuve, Cheryl Wallingford, Lizzie Warland

Special guest appearance……………….……Elaine McCausland

Orchestra:

Conductor/keyboard………………………….Chris Lucas

Keyboards……………………..Mark Allen, Aidan Shenkman

Guitar…………………………………………John Corkett

Bass……………………………………………Corey Thomas

Drums………………………………………….Trevor Curtis


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