Thursday, February 7, 2013

Theatre review: "Sister Act" road company

A lively, capable, hardworking road company is doing its thing here in a few days glimpse of the musical, Sister Act, part of the Broadway Across America series. As you may know, this is a spin on the 1992 movie starring Whoopie Goldberg. There were songs in that too, but not the same as in those in the 16-month-running Broadway show.

Ah, yes, another nun show, closer to Nunsense (quite close, actually) than to the intended uplift of The Sound of Music. Won’t those poor, dedicated souls in black ever get any peace?

Alan Menken wrote the music and Glenn Slater the lyrics. They’ve turned out some pretty good stuff before and came up with a few worthy contributions this time around. Note that multi-award winner Menken has written a score of scores for Disney movies and their stage transubstantiations. The 14 numbers, with five reprises, come in variety of style, not just rock.

The show is based on Joseph Howard’s screenplay with additional book material by Douglas Carter Beane. Beane has written a number of good plays, often veering towards bizarreness. Here he’s more conventional while serving up some good laughs, albeit basic ones.

The two and half hours in two acts mostly look like a vehicle for singing and doing a little dancing with most lead characters getting their own down front and center special time. Yea verily, everyone sings sturdily, dances expertly when required and delivers the elemental goods as if they believe in them.

The plot has only about 20 minutes worth of substance, most of that in the first act. Night club singer, booty-shaking Deloris, witnesses her boyfriend Curtis killing someone and, needing to escape possible bump-off, gets help from one-time classmate Eddie who’s become a good cop. He’s got a crush. Eddie aids Deloris’ submerging into a convent, even though Mother Superior would prefer more order in her order. Deloris finds that the nun’s choir needs some serious help hymn-wise. She tunes them up. So much so, that their floundering church may resurrect, given that crowds come to witness the nuns’ act and start filling up the collection plates. Meanwhile Curtis hopes to send Deloris to heaven.

Ta’Rea Campbell plays Deloris with vigor, vitality and a voice to beat the band but she lacks anything special personality-wise. On the other hand, Pittsburgh’s own E. Clayton Cornelious’ take on Eddie comes loaded with charm and style. As Mother Superior, Hollis Resnik expertly avoids the obvious, neither cracking too wise or coming across as the nasty product of too many years bending knees on cold stone floors. She gives the role more subtlety, and earnestness, so much so that in the final big production number, she doesn't belong, singing and dancing amid that all-stops-out crowd.

The sets have simple integrity and the nuns costumes get glitzier and glitzier.

Don’t expect a miracle. 

Sister Act continues through February 10 at Benedum Center, downtown. 412/ 456-6666-or

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