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Review: SISTER ACT at Geva Theatre

Review: SISTER ACT at Geva Theatre

Now through July 24th, 2022.

To close its 2021-2022 season, Rochester's Geva Theatre is presenting the musical adaptation of one of the 90's' most treasured cinematic gems, infused with a bit more disco, shenanigans, and tweaked to fit the confines of a stage. "Sister Act", the 2006 Alan Menken and Glenn Slater musical, is gracing the Wilson Stage now until July 24th.

Deloris Van Cartier (Danielle J. Summons) is an aspiring singer in Philadelphia, where she is auditioning to perform at her gangster boyfriend (Alex Gibbs)'s nightclub. Deloris believes that Curtis is going to introduce her to a big producer, but is upset when he tells her she is not ready. Hurt and rejected, Deloris decides to break up with him, but when she goes to find him she accidentally sees him kill one of his cronies. Deloris runs to the police and Lt. Eddie Souther (Terance Reddick), who place her in hiding at a convent until Curtis is brought to trial. At first, Deloris feels as though it will be the worst thing in the world, chafing against the constraints of convent life and a cantankerous Mother Superior (April Armstrong), but once she is introduced to the struggling choir at the convent, everything changes. She finds that many of the nuns at the convent are not that different from her, and that they are quite fun to be around. They help give her a bigger purpose in her life, showing her genuine love and affection that was missing prior to her arrival at the convent.

"Sister Act" features some excellent individual performances, notably Armstrong's Mother Superior, the old sage who delivers just as much wisdom as laughter, and Reddick's Eddie, whose "I Could Be That Guy" is the musical highlight of the show. Even more notable than any individual performance is the production's ensemble work. The nuns of the convent deliver countless scenes featuring seamless dancing, raucous physical comedy, and heavenly singing, and Curtis' goons (Nat Lopez, Terance Reddick, and Juwon Tyrel Perry) are Three Stooges-esque goofballs providing plenty of hijinks and humor.

Try my darndest though I may, it's simply impossible to divorce the "Sister Act" musical from the "Sister Act" movie in my psyche. I completely acknowledge how unfair it is to lay those expectations at the feet of the stage adaptation, but those are the waters you swim in when you adapt popular movies into stage productions, particularly movies as treasured as "Sister Act" is for so many, myself included (it was growing up, and is to this day, one of my all-time favorites). And because the "Sister Act" musical carries so much of that baggage, it's impossible to not take mental notes about what aspects of the adaptation don't quite work. Like many stage adaptations of movies, it moves incredibly fast in an attempt to squeeze in all the content from the source material (and still leaves much of the best stuff out). It also makes the bold---and in my opinion, flawed---choice of replacing the gospel-infused doo-wop music at the center of the movie with disco, and moving the setting of the musical to the 1970s disco era. These aren't flaws of the Geva production, more so flaws of the Menken/Slater adaptation. You need only look at Broadway trends (critical and box office) of the last 15-20 years to note that screen-to-stage adaptations flop way more often than they soar, and while I don't think the "Sister Act" musical is a flop by any stretch, it doesn't quite live up to its iconic source material.

"Sister Act" probably isn't the pinnacle of dramatic excellence or an important new addition to the 21st-century musical theatre canon, but it still makes for an entertaining night at the theatre.




From This Author - Colin Fleming-Stumpf

Colin Fleming-Stumpf is a lover of all things theatre and performing arts. A native of Rochester, Colin has acted on stages across Western New York and is active in the local theatre community as a... (read more about this author)


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