BWW Review: Singing the Praises of Orpheus' Production of SISTER ACT in Ottawa at the Meridian Theatres @ Centrepointe
I was invited to the opening night performance of Orpheus Theatre's new production of Sister Act at the Meridian Theatre @ Centrepointe. Sister Act is based on the 1992 movie of the same name, starring Whoopi Goldberg as the singing nun. Another story about a singing nun, you ask? Well this isn't your average nun...
The plotline is somewhat reminiscent of the award-winning 1959 film, Some Like it Hot, starring Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, and Marilyn Monroe. In Sister Act, Deloris Van Cartier (Jerusha Lewis) is an aspiring singer auditioning at her boyfriend's cocktail bar in Philadelphia. After she witnesses a mob type hit, she goes on the lam and finds reluctant sanctuary at the struggling Queen of Angels convent with the residing Mother Superior (Mary Ellen Vice). Mother Superior insists that if she is to stay in the convent, she must cast aside her "sinful" ways and abide by the same rules as the other nuns. The only thing that saves Deloris from total despair is her opportunity to help guide the convent's atrocious choir, to whom she is introduced as Sister Mary Clarence.
The set design, in particular that of the church and convent, was outstanding. Every time I see an Orpheus production, the sets seem to get better and better. My sole complaint lies with the lighting. I have noted this in prior Orpheus productions as well: the spotlight is not bright enough. The audience struggles to see when a scene calls for a spotlight on an otherwise dark stage. It results in an unnecessary loss of the dramatic effect of using the spotlight.
The choir was believably horrifying at first, with their voices gradually coming together to harmonize beautifully. Any number that included the choir supporting Deloris was divine.
Vice's unyielding Mother Superior very slowly comes to the realization that that Sister Mary Clarence (Lewis) may be the unlikely answer to her prayers to save the church from financial ruin. Vice's performance of "Here Within These Walls" was a highlight of the show. Mike Kennedy was delightful in his role as the slightly eccentric Monsignor O'Hara, who embraces the church's new direction.
Charles Moir playing the requisite bad guy, Curtis Jackson, channeled his inner mob boss for this role. Nowhere was this more evident than in his rendition of "When I Find my Baby", a hilarious inverse love song. His three henchmen, Joey (Brian Muma), TJ (Andrew Portolesi) and Pablo (Adrien Pyke) were exaggerated to the point of annoyance at times. The laughter indicated that some audience members enjoyed their antics, so I may have been in the minority here.
Reba Sigler, as Sister Mary Roberts was a little uneven in her vocal performance at the beginning but seemed to grow into her role as the show wore on. She had her moment to shine with "The Life I Never Led" and Sigler did not waste the opportunity. The programme noted that Sigler is in the process of completing a Graduate Artist Diploma in Vocal Performance at the University of Ottawa. I look forward to seeing her development in future performances.
The two actors that carried the show were undoubtedly Jerusha Lewis as Deloris Van Cartier / Sister Mary Clarence and, although in a lesser role, Damien Broomes as Lieutenant "Sweaty" Eddie Souther. Broomes' rendition of "I Could Be That Guy", was performed with all the confidence and ability of any 70s soul star.
Lewis exuded enthusiasm and energy on stage, portraying her character to perfection. She gave a commanding execution of "Take Me to Heaven", "Fabulous Baby", and "Sister Act". Her singing talent and charisma is extraordinary, and I was shocked to discover that this was her first lead role in a musical. I certainly hope this performance will lead to many more leading lady opportunities, as she clearly deserves to be in the limelight.
Overall, this was the best Orpheus production I have seen to date, largely thanks to the casting and singing talent. Recommended for the whole family, Sister Act runs through March 17, 2019 at Meridian Theatres @ Centrepointe in Ottawa. For more information or for tickets, go to https://www.orpheus-theatre.ca/sisteract.