BWW Review: SISTER ACT at Arvada Center
The Arvada Center is kicking off its 41st season by taking you to church, and maybe heaven, too, if you let it.
Directed by Arvada Center's producing artistic director Rod A. Lansberry, the musical version of Sister Act has lounge singer Deloris Van Cartier hiding in a convent after she witnesses a murder in late '70s Philadelphia, just like the 1992 film. Given the task of leading the nun choir, she puts a bit more dazzle in their performance, catching the eye of the community and helping the church get back on its feet.
Deloris is Brit West, who's played the role at least couple times before. Her charisma and wit provide the show with the backbone it requires, and she nails every bit with vivacity. Denver favorite Megan Van de Hey is seamless as the steadfast Mother Superior. Stephen Day has a few entertaining moments as Monsignor O'Hara.
The ensemble of nuns is spectacular, though. Shining through are Mary Robert (a perfectly nuanced Emma Martin), the effervescent Mary Patrick (Sharon Kay White), and an impressive Mary Lazarus (Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck, who doubles as choreographer)--her solo moments steal the show. When the group comes together, angels literally sing, thanks to music director David Nehls.
I wanted more of all of them, but the writers gifted a few songs to featured male roles, which were performed well, but I didn't really need them, except for a fun number performed by the cop who hides Deloris, Eddie (David Kaverman), with a few Henry-worthy quick changes orchestrated magically by costumer Brianna Diaz. Keith L. Hatten also gave Curtis Jackson, the crime boss after Deloris, an edge I loved.
(I know the crime subplot of the show is important...but I just really wanted to hang out with the nuns more.)
While I didn't get the same vibe as the original Whoopi Goldberg movie, the musical brings its own bubbly charm to the stage. What was missing for me was a solid book, by Cheri and Bill Steinkellner with Douglas Carter Beane. There was something about the flow that seemed choppy. Music by Alan Menken is appealing like everything else he pens, and Glenn Slater's lyrics are catchy. Hilsabeck's choreography takes the numbers to heavenly heights.
But what the show itself lacks for me in substance, this production makes up for in pure energetic joy. It really is fabulous, baby.
Sister Act plays the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities through October 2. Performances are Tuesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays at 1 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. Audience engagement events, including insider's talkbacks and happy hours with the cast, are held through the run of the production. Tickets available at ArvadaCenter.org/Sister-Act or at (720)898-7200.