Disco music in a church? In a convent? Nuns hiding murder witness? These do not sound like plot points of a Broadway musical. SISTER ACT, though, tied all of these together with witty banter, great characters, and hummable "fabulous" songs when it opened at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts on Tuesday night.
Those of you familiar with the 1992 feature film, starring Whoopi Goldberg (who serves as co-producer for SISTER ACT), probably remember the plot points. Disco diva (mostly in her own mind) Deloris Van Cartier witnesses a murder by her boyfriend and boss Curtis Jackson. When she reports the murder to police detective Eddie Souther (an ex-classmate known in school as "sweaty Eddie"), Deloris is placed in protective custody at a location where she should never be found - a convent. As Deloris tries to find her way at the convent, she is directed by Mother Superior to join the choir, which is struggling to make it through their weekly hymns. In the choir, Deloris finds a place to cultivate her talents while helping the church. She builds a sisterhood with the nuns and the choir (and church) begins to thrive.
The movie consisted of songs that most of us know. If you are going to see this show and are expecting to hear the same music, you will be disappointed. But only for a few minutes. The stage version contains all original music in a score by Alan Menken and Glenn Slater. The music is exciting, hummable, and will stick with you. As I write this, I still have "Fabulous, Baby", stuck in my head.
The cast of SISTER ACT is filled with talent. Ta'Rea Campbell plays Deloris Van Cartier. Campbell's voice is stunning; her acting and comedic timing are spot on. Kingsley Leggs plays Curtis Jackson (he originated the role on Broadway) with a combination of creepiness and humanity that makes you worry about Deloris's safety, especially when he performs songs like "When I Find My Baby" (where he sings about different ways he could kill Deloris when he finds her). Hollis Resnik brings emotional depth to the character of Mother Superior, especially during "Haven't Got a Prayer". You can really sense the confusion and inner conflict Mother Superior is having related to the choir's success. E. Clayton Cornelious, as "Sweaty" Eddie gives a standout performance in this amazing cast. He comes off as kind of nerdy, shy, and awkward initially, but as he gains his footing in protecting Deloris, he becomes more confident and boisterous. The transformation is thrilling to watch.
If you are looking for an entertaining, fun filled evening that will leave you feeling quite "fabulous, baby", go see SISTER ACT. Performances run through February 24th at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets can be purchased at the Box Office (929 N. Water Street, Milwaukee), by phone at (414) 273-7206 or online. More event information can be found at the Marcus Center Web Site.