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Theater Review: 'Sister Act' At The Pantages

Liffany Chen |
July 15, 2013 | 11:01 a.m. PDT

Staff Contributor

Mother Superior (Hollis Resnik) and Deloris Van Cartier (Ta'Rea Campbell) in Sister Act
Mother Superior (Hollis Resnik) and Deloris Van Cartier (Ta'Rea Campbell) in Sister Act

"Sister Act" (book by Cheri Steinkellner and Bill Steinkellner with additional book material by Douglas Carter Beane) is based on the 1992 comedy film of the same name by Joseph Howard. It tells the story of disco diva Deloris Van Cartier (Ta’Rea Campbell), who is placed in a convent after witnessing a mob hit. Until she can testify in court, Deloris goes under the guise of a nun and struggles with the rigid nun lifestyle as well as a particularly uptight Mother Superior (Hollis Resnik). After Deloris uses her disco musical talent to inspire the nun choir and transforms the church, she gains a sisterhood, including a timid and meek Sister Mary Robert (Lael Van Keuren), a deadpan and grumpy Sister Mary Lazaras (Diane J. Findlay), and a jolly and hyperactive Sister Mary Patrick (Florrie Bagel).

"Sister Act" is entertaining. There is disconnect between the actors and their roles; while Sister Act is a light comedy, there is plenty of room for some much-needed character development and depth. Under Jerry Zaks' direction, having caricatures onstage as opposed to having a more grounded approach to the roles leaves much to be desired; there are moments that have the potential to be heartwarming, but end up instead muddled with superfluous acts and gestures for laughs. Despite the lack of genuine approaches and execution, the cast is strong with its voice and energy, particularly in the second act. Campbell’s riffs as Deloris are strong, Keuren’s belt is absurd in the best sense of the word, and really livens up the character of Sister Mary Robert, and Findlay’s rapping as Sister Mary Lazarus could give M.C. Hammer a run for his money. Alan Menken and Glenn Slater's songs are incredibly catchy.

The lighting design (by Natasha Katz) is smart. Strobe and disco lights reflect Deloris’ disco fascination and influence while calm, colored lights give off the Motown theme of the show. Lez Brotherston's costumes are very 1970’s—perfect, considering the show takes place in 1978—and one can only wonder how the company members manage to knock out dance number after dance number with high energy while wearing heavy habits completely covered in sequins. The set (by Klara Zieglerova), while obviously tailored to be portable for the sake of a touring production, gets the job done with clever and subtle uses of backdrops and scrims. 

Overall, "Sister Act" is a feel good musical. The mix of high-energy numbers, jokes, and romance make it an enjoyable show, and it is certainly a cure for boredom or for anyone who is looking for that “Sunday Morning Fever.”

Reach Staff Contributer Liffany Chen here

“Sister Act” is playing at the Pantages Theatre (6233 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood) through July 28. Tickets are $25-$125. For more information, visit www.HollywoodPantages.com.



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