SISTER ACT Will Redeem Your Soul

Hollis Resnik & Ta’Rea Campbell in Sister Act
Photo by: Joan Marcus

If you and your family are looking for two fantastic hours of comedy, joy and some of the best disco music written since the 1970’s, well then, get thee to the nunnery because Sister Act has arrived.  Sister Act, the musical version of the hit 1992 Whoopi Goldberg film has opened for a limited run at the Auditorium Theatre.  From the moment the lights go up, you know are in for treat as this first National touring company has a cast that rivals and surpasses the original London production I saw a few years back.   The physical production itself has also changed when Sister Act crossed the ocean to open on Broadway.   With Jerry Zak taking over the direction, songs were cut, others added and the script was tightened.    The Broadway recently closed in August and this tour is said to be an almost exact replica of that version (Ms. Goldberg remains as a producer).

The musical contains a pop/disco score by Alan Menken (music) and Glenn Slater (lyrics) and a book by Cheers writers Cheri  and Bill Steinkellner (with additional material by Douglas Carter Beane).  Sister Act is set in Philadelphia in the late 1970’s and follows Deloris Van Cartier (Ta’Rea Campbell), a salty, smoking, drinking, swearing, nightclub singer who witnesses her gangster boyfriend, Curtis Jackson (Kingsley Leggs), murder a tattle tailing curmudgeon.  She is put under protective custody by her old high school chum, Eddie Souther (E. Clayton Cornelius) now a Philadelphia cop who has always had a little sweaty crush on Deloris.   “Sweaty Eddie” convinces Mother Superior (Hollis Resnik) to take her in and hide her at the convent, where the classic fish out of water story unfolds as two different cultures collides.   The parish is lacking parishioners and is on the brink of being purchased by two gay antiquities dealers.    Deloris is put in charge of the nun’s choir, which when Mother Superior is asked to describe them simply says “there are no words”.   The nuns are out of tune and out of time.   Delores transforms the nuns into a disco-Jesus rocking choir, gaining fame and selling out the services which brings in the cash.   As Delores transforms the lives and livelihood of the nuns and perish, so too is hers.

Make no mistake, Sister Act is about as formulaic as it gets, but for this type of material, that is more than justifiable.    At its core, Sister Act delves into our preconceived judgments of each other and the healing power the spirit undergoes when those prejudices are dismissed.   This concept is framed by the relationship between Mother Superior and Delores, two polar opposites who find their own salvation in one another. 

This tour of Sister Act contains a cast that is far superior than the prior version I saw starting with the amazing Ta’rea Campbell as Deloris.  Ms. Campbell is at all times believable, possesses great comic timing and has fantastic on stage chemistry with Hollis Resnik’s Mother Superior, who commands every scene she is in.  Ms. Resnik, who just won another Jeff Award for her amazing performance in Gary Griffin’s Follies” is, simply put, one of the best stage actresses around.

The supporting cast is also sensational, with Kingsley Leggs offering a hilarious and vocally dominant performance as Deloris killer boyfriend and E. Clayton Cornelious is perfectly cast as “Sweaty Eddie” who has the audience cheering for him the moment he comes on stage.   However, it is Lael Van Keuren’s vocals as Sister Mary Robert with the song “The Life I Never Led” that alone is worth the price of admission.

Judging from the audience reaction on opening night, Sister Act is one of those shows that could sustain a long run in a downtown theater    The crowd was on their feet all the way through curtain call and that was the same reaction the show received in London.  There is something miraculously infectious  about Sister Act and with the holiday season again upon us, this is the perfect show to ignite your spirit.

Sister Act runs until December 2, 2012 at The Auditorium Theatre at Roosevelt University, 50 East Congress Parkway.  Performances are Tuesdays 7:30 p.m., Wednesdays at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.  except Thanksgiving), Fridays at 7:30 p.m. (plus a 3 p.m. show on November 23rd), Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. with an added 7:30 p.m. on November 18th.

Tickets range from $28-$103 and can be purchased at the Auditorium box office or any Broadway In Chicago box office, including the Kiosk at Water Tower Place, by phone at The Broadway In Chicago Ticket line, 800-775-2000, at all Ticketmaster outlets and online at www.BroadwayinChicago.com   For calendar information please visit www.theatreinchicago.com  RELATED: SHOWBIZ CHICAGO PODCAST WITH HOLLIS RESNIK