As I walked into the theater last night for Sister Act, I spotted more than a few men and women of the cloth, which immediately made me nervous. As a lapsed Catholic, I have a guilty conscience that has followed me into adulthood. Moreover, could I possibly like the same show as priests and nuns? The answer is a happy yes—though I’m just assuming by the rousing standing ovation the show got that the priests and nuns enjoyed the show, too. I think it’s a safe bet.
Sister Act was turned into a musical by the original movie’s star, Whoopi Goldberg, who is producing the show. She brought in veteran composer Alan Menken to write the songs, which have a 70s, Motown feel. The plot of the musical is similar to that of the movie, Dolores, an aspiring lounge singer, has to hide out in a convent after witnessing her thug boyfriend kill someone. She quickly turns the tone deaf choir of nuns into a must-see, money-making act for the church. The results are charming, toe-tapping fun.
One thing that really struck me is that after seeing shows with a giant Manolo Blahnik, helicopters that land on stage and sinking ships, the set of Sister Act is disarmingly simple. The showiest part is a stained glass window and over-sized Madonna (the Virgin Mary, not the singer). It was refreshing that the show wowed on its plot, songs and dance numbers alone.
It has been a while since I’ve seen the movie—it came out in 1992, so it’s safe to say it was nearly 20 years ago—but I do think a touch of the original charm was lost in the transfer to Broadway. I get that it’s a challenge to develop characters in a musical, but some of the depth of the friendships was lost from the movie. In addition, Kathy Najimy stole the show in the movie as sister Mary Patrick, a character who barely makes an impression here. On the other hand, sister Mary Robert in the musical, Marla Mindelle, is adorable with a killer voice.
My tickets were courtesy of Swarovski. I started to fret in Act I that I would have nothing to write about when it comes to sparkly costumes. But rest assured, they’re there—I don’t want to spoil the surprise.
All in all, I give Sister Act a hearty thumbs up. We left the theater with a smile on our face, humming the final show stopping number. And really, what more do you need from a musical?
Tickets to Sister Act are available online.