BWW Reviews: SISTER ACT Lifts Spirits in Durham
The lauded film-turned-hit-Broadway-musical Sister Act has come to town and is playing at the Durham Performing Arts Center. The show has everything from crime drama to nun choreography. It's fun for the whole family.
The stage adaptation of the film Sister Act follows the film's storyline closely. Deloris Van Cartier, trying to make it as a nightclub singer, witnesses a murder outside a club. As the key witness is putting away a big suspect, Deloris's life is in danger. To protect her until she testifies in court, policeman (and Deloris's high school classmate) Eddie Souther hides her in a convent, disguised as a nun. Not really cut out for the abbey lifestyle, Deloris (now called Sister Mary Clarence) gets the nuns excited about singing over-the-top 70s-style songs to the Lord - sparkly habits and all. The biggest major change from the original is that in the film, the nuns adapted hit songs and turned them into songs about God, and this is a true musical with all original music.
As wannabe nightclub singer Deloris Van Cartier turned Sister Mary Clarence, Ta'rea Campbell has the voice and the sass for the role. She does the iconic character justice. Yet, there were a few supporting actors who really made this show shine - Lael Van Keuren as Sister Mary Robert, Hollis Resnik as Mother Superior, and Diane J. Findlay and Sister Mary Lazarus. Ven Keuren can belt notes most humans merely dream about, and she brings to life her character's transformation from a woman meekly awaiting her call to the sisterhood to a woman with something to say. In "Raise Your Voice," when Deloris is teaching the nuns to sing, Van Keuren is superb. Then, she outdoes herself in "The Life I Never Led" and its reprise. In this show about a lot of women, E. Clayton Cornelious manages to stand out as Eddie, a cop with a crush on Deloris, with his smooth voice and quirky charm.
Lyrically, some of the songs (particularly the ones sung by non-nuns) start out weak and don't hit their stride until the first chorus. The best numbers are definitely the ones sung by the nuns - that's what Sister Act is about, after all. Prolific songwriter Alan Menken, and lyricist Glenn Slater certainly created some winners, namely "Fabulous, Baby!," "Raise Your Voice," and "The Life I Never Led." While some of the minor, non-nun characters seem like a ploy to stretch the plot a little, the show is fun and enjoyable. The comedic sensibility of the show, from the book by Cheri and Bill Steinkellner, with its clever religious jokes and excellent comic timing of the actors create a family-friendly night of theater that left the audience in stitches and is just plain fun.
Sister Act runs through May 19. For tickets and more information, visit www.dpacnc.com.