BWW Reviews: SISTER ACT at the Paramount Starts Weak But Finishes Strong
There's an old show business adage that if you give the audience a strong ending, they'll forgive most anything that came before. And it's a good thing that still holds true for "Sister Act" currently playing at the Paramount Theatre as the top of the show was filled with painfully forced dialog and exposition but the show managed to break that habit (pun intended) and end on a much stronger note. Not brilliant but stronger.
In yet another movie turned stage musical (and you know my disdain for that trend) "Sister Act" follows the wacky antics of Deloris Van Cartier (Ta'Rea Campbell), a wanna be lounge singer in the 70's with a disreputable married boyfriend, Curtis (Kingsley Leggs). Deloris may have talent but can't seem to get a break. But that turns out to be the least of her problems when she witnesses Curtis murder one of his henchmen. So now Deloris is on the run from Curtis and his remaining henchmen (Todd A. Horman, Ernie Pruneda and Charles Barksdale) who are looking to eliminate this loose end. Deloris runs to the police and an old high school friend Eddie Souther (Chester Gregory) who has the perfect place to hide her until she can testify against Curtis. A convent. The Mother Superior (Hollis Resnik) begrudgingly allows Deloris to stay but only if she pretends to be a Nun and stays out of trouble. But when Deloris begins working with the choir at the church she transforms these meek little nuns into a powerhouse singing group filled with enough glitz and flash to rival a Vegas Spectacle.
I'm sure you've all seen the 1992 movie. And the show hits most of the high points from that but at times it just feels like a rehash. Like your uncle retelling a joke that you both saw on TV. Sure it's still funny but it's lost a little of that spark. The glitzy production numbers make up for some truly heavy-handed dialog and as I said it does get better throughout. But it just takes awhile to get up to speed.
Campbell has a killer voice and manages the comedy of it all well and does a fine job carrying the show (as 90% is Deloris). Resnik acts as a fine foil for her to butt heads with and shines in her Act Two solo. The trio of supporting nuns (Lael Van Keuren, Florrie Bagel and Diane J. Findlay) each tackle their iconic characters with zeal. Gregory has a hilarious dream sequence of a number and sells it for everything he's got. Even the trio of henchmen have their own number and to be honest it's one of the funnier ones in the show.
But the show just doesn't give anything more than the movie already did. Sure the Alan Menken and Glenn Slater songs are new but largely forgettable once you've heard them. And yes the costumes have been amped up to sparkle on stage. But what else do you have to offer that the movie doesn't? Definitely not the book from Cheri Steinkellner, Bill Steinkellner and Douglas Carter Beane as the plot points are all barreled through in order to get to the next production number. The production numbers are outstanding and a lot of fun. I definitely laughed, tapped my foot and enjoyed the hell out of them but I still wanted more. I guess I'm picky; I want them to tell me a story and not just sing me a song. And ultimately the song is what I got which amounted to a show that went from fumbling and grew into "meh, that was cute".
"Sister Act" performs at the Paramount Theatre through August 25th. For tickets or information visit the Seattle Theatre Group online at www.stgpresents.org.
Photo credit: Joan Marcus