Marriott’s SISTER ACT Is Pure Heaven
Reviewed by: Russell Goeltenbolt
As a Catholic growing up going to a Catholic grade school, I have had some experience with Nuns. Most of the nuns that I remember were very serious, didn’t have a real good sense of humor and rarely smiled. I am happy to say that my memories have been replaced by nuns having fun and creating very entertaining memories with the current production of Sister Act at the Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre.
Sister Act is set in the mid 1970’s with singer Deloris Van Cartier, (played by Stephanie Umoh), who is trying to find her big break in show business when she witnesses boyfriend Curtis Jackson, (played by Byron Glenn Willis) murdering a fellow hoodlum. After going to the police, Deloris learns her life is in danger and must go into hiding until she can testify. Police Officer, and former high school classmate Eddie Souther, (played by Jonathan Butler-Duplesses), takes her to a convent where Deloris hides out as one of the sisters. The Mother Superior, (played by Hollis Resnik) is not at all pleased with Deloris’ unconventional behavior. After noticing that Deloris’ behavior is having an effect on the other sisters, the Mother Superior wants her to keep a low profile so Deloris is given the task of directing a very bad choir of nuns. However, after working her musical charm, Deloris is able to create a choir that is musically pleasant, and very entertaining. The sisters end up becoming superstars bringing in more parishioners, not to mention more money for a failing church that is in jeopardy of closing its doors. (Sound familiar Chicago?). The pastor Monsignor O’Hara (played by Don Forston), is more than thrilled with the increasing attendance and additional collections that the church is able to stay open. Unfortunately, the Mother Superior is so incensed by all of the publicity and wants Deloris to go away. In the meantime, Curtis and his thugs are busy looking for Deloris to keep her quiet. The production moves forward with all of these issues with a very funny, musically entertaining resolution.
The ensemble performance by everyone in Sister Act is outstanding. However, the signature performance by Stephanie Umoh stole the show. Stephanie’s versatility of playing Deloris the street wise singer to becoming Sr. Mary Clarence created her persona and chemistry with the rest of the cast. Her vocal talent going from disco with, (Take Me To Heaven) to Gospel with (Raise Your Voice) transformed Stephanie’s masterful voice and continued the joyful tone for Sister Act. Veteran, Jeff Award and multi award winning actress Hollis Resnik gave a sensational performance as the very strict Mother Superior. Her song, (I Haven’t Got a Prayer) was moving where she felt that she is no competition for Deloris and questions God and her vocation. Additional, notable musical performances were given by Jonathan Butler-Duplesses, as the love struck policeman with (I Could Be That Guy); and Tiffany Tatreau as the novice Mary Robert who gave a powerful musical performance with (The Life I Never Led). All of the voices were dynamic and wonderful.
The entire cast sang and danced under magnificently under the skillful direction of Don Stephenson, choreographer Melissa Zaremba and musical director Doug Peck. Costume design by Nancy Missimi was very unique, especially with the sequin habits. The minimal set design by Thomas Ryan, and lighting design by Jessie Klug proved that less is more especially when producing a show in the round. All of these aspects created another musical masterpiece at the Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre.
I highly recommend Sister Act as a very high energy, and entertaining show. Please note, some conservative Catholics my not approve of the contemporary subject matter. Although, I really wish that I had these nuns when I attended Catholic school. It just proves that even nuns can be fun! Also with the Chicago Archdiocese closing various churches and schools these days, perhaps we need to recruit some nuns from this production of Sister Act to keep them open.Just a thought.
Sister Act is running through April 3, 2016 Performances and tickets are listed on the Marriott Lincolnshire website. (www.marriotttheatre.com.), or call the Marriott Theatre Box Office at 847-634-0200.