Review: Torrance Theatre Company's SISTER ACT is a Sparkling Musical Tribute to the Universal Power of Friendship
Each summer, the Torrance Theatre Company opens its season with a musical production at the James Armstrong Theatre. This year, it's SISTER ACT, the feel-good musical comedy smash based on the hit 1992 film starring Whoopi Goldberg as disco diva Deloris Van Cartier, who witnesses a murder and is put in protective custody in the one place the cops are sure she won't be a found: a convent! Featuring original music by Tony (and eight-time Oscar) winner Alan Menken (Newsies, Beauty and the Beast, Little Shop of Horrors), this uplifting musical was nominated for five Tony Awards, including Best Musical.
The Torrance Theatre Company production is directed by Jim Hormel with musical direction by Bradley Hampton, and choreography by Christopher Albrecht, and features an outstanding live orchestra who knows how to rock the house!
The production features a cast of 30 actors from all over Southern California, starring Ashley Elizabeth Crowe as Deloris who transforms herself into Sister Mary Clarence. Crowe will grab your attention every moment she is on stage with her booming voice and over-the-top energy. But while disguised as a nun, she finds herself at odds with both the rigid lifestyle and uptight Mother Superior, played to the hilt of perfection by Catherine Rahm. The two actresses have the time of their lives in the roles, with their scene in the confessional booth a riot of mistaken identity!
Once it is discovered that her unique disco moves and singing talent inspire the off-key choir to reach new spiritual heights, Deloris breathes new life into the church and community, winning the hearts of the good sisters. Sister Mary Lazarus, the former choir director, is played by Cindy Shields who gets inspired to become the rapping sister extraordinaire! You haven't really laughed until you witness Shields laying down her best rap moves in full nun's habit, accentuated with dark sunglasses! The novice nun, Sister Mary Robert, is played by Brianna Liddi as a quiet and confused young woman who first finds her voice and then her soul thanks to Deloris' encouragement. Her rousing rendition of "The Life I Never Led" is a highlight of the show.
Rounding out the nuns are Jade Taylor as Sister Mary Patrick, Claire Griswold as Sister Mary Martin-of-Tours, Wendy Way as Sister Mary Theresa, and the nun ensemble members Gloria Amaya, Linda Borg, Corey Eccles, Calyssa Frankel, Krista Gillis, Mackenzie Hamilton, Genevieve Kennedy, Melinda Koen, Rachel McCormick, Melissa Staab, Donna Strogryn and Daniella Zappacosta who bring fire and much humor to Albrecht's group choreography featuring quite a few multi-level jazz hands!
As the church's flock grows, so does the religious flare of Monsignor O'Hara, played with the necessary ego and opposing modesty by Perry Shields whose glorious costumes, designed by Bradley Allen Lock, rival those of the sisters as they learn to steal the spotlight in sequined habits. But when the media takes notice, Deloris cannot resist the attention. But, in doing so, blows her cover and soon the gang led by Curtis (Ripley Scanlan), gives chases in a farcical scene with multiple characters running in and out of many doors which was great fun to watch!
But even with assistance of Joey (Niko Montelibano), Pablo (Edward Benford IV), and TJ (Justin Sullivan), Curtis finds he is no match against Deloris and the power of her newly found sisterhood.
Even Eddie (Joshua Lopez), the police officer assigned to monitor Deloris and keep her safe for the upcoming trial, falls for her and pledges to make sure she has a better life. And in the end as she enters in her wished-for white gown and fox fur coat, you know her dreams of fame and fortune have come true. The musical is a sparkling tribute to the universal power of friendship, love, and above all, self-discovery.
SISTER ACT runs for three weekends at the James Armstrong Theatre 3330 Civic Center Drive, Torrance. Performances are August 5 at 8 pm, August 6 at 2 pm, August 12 at 8 pm, August 13 at 2 pm, and August 18 and 19 at 8 pm. Adult tickets are $35, Seniors (65+)/Students(with ID) are $30, and children (12 and under) are $25. Tickets are available online at www.TorranceCA.Gov/TCACTickets or by phone at (310) 781-7171.
The Torrance Theatre Company is a program of the Cultural Services Division of the Torrance Community Services Department. Sponsored in part by Friends of Torrance Theatre Company. www.TorranceTheatreCompany.com.
Photography by Deidre Allabashi and Amorette Muzingo