By Bill Beard
Don’t hesitate! The moment you read this, get on the phone or online and get your reservations for Fireside’s current hit musical, Sister Act, the Musical. Based on the hilarious 1992 Whoopie Goldberg hit, this Broadway adaptation, as directed by the always brilliant Ed Flesch, adds another hit to his long-standing reputation.
But don’t expect Whoopie Goldberg; and don’t expect the big ’60s sounds of the original movie. This version has been re-set in 1977, and it has all the “glitter ball” effects of the Disco-era. It has also been adapted more to the Broadway musical format to allow more solo ‘book’ numbers for the lead roles, in this case all marvelously cast with great voices and terrific acting chops.
The plot reads: “Once again we see lounge singer Deloris van Cartier (Whoopie Goldberg in the movie), driven into hiding when she witnesses a mob murder. Somewhat incongruously, the safe house chosen by the cops is a convent, which gets shaken to its religious foundations by our heroine, in her new disguise as Sister Mary Clarence. Appointed to supervise the tone-deaf choir of nuns, she turns them into a group of swinging sisters whose sudden fame imperils both her and their safety.”
It took me a few moments of adjustment, but by the time Bianca Horn as Deloris finished her first two numbers, Take Me to Heaven and Fabulous, Baby, assisted by her terrific back-up singers, Abigail Raye and Kris Roberts, I had completely forgotten to miss Whoopie; and from that point on, Ms. Horn became my perfect new singing nun, Sister Mary Clarence!
Ms. Horn has it all! Gorgeous face and body, terrific voice, dance and acting power and above all, the perfect energy and spirit to make her Mary Clarence into a wonderful believable character, even in the middle of a ridiculous and hilarious spoof.
Challenging her for special attention is the vivacious Erica Lustig as the pixie-like novitiate wannabe showgirl, Sister Mary Robert. She gives us one of the real high points of the evening with her The Life I Never Led.
Supplying a formidable but loving antagonist in the role of the Mother Superior is the remarkably talented Rachel Cohen, coming from national and international tour experience, plus featured cruise ship work with Cunard Line and Disney Magic. She provided the perfect combination of commanding control and motherly affection to make her the solid foundation for the hilarious convent chaos, and revealed her real character in the confession-like I Haven‘t Got a Prayer.
Kudos also to the charming work of Glory Kissel (last seen here as Daisy in Driving Miss Daisy) in the role of the spunky, not-quite-senile Sister Mary Theresa; and to the lively Cassandra Dupler as the wise-cracking Sister Mary Patrick.
The male roles in Sister Act, the Musical have been criticized as silly, too contrived. I must agree that they seem to come across as secondary necessities. A young second banana type cop, plus a handsome gang leader and his three “stooges” henchmen are of course needed for this plot, but could really suffer from comparison to this superb menagerie of wimpled warriors.
However, Director Flesch has cast the disarming Derrick Jerard Parks as Officer Eddie (“Sweaty”) Souther, who convinces Delores, as well as the audience, that he is actually a real charmer. And Lawrence Street as the evil Curtis, along with Micah Mims, Martin Bonventre and Joe Joseph as the gangly gangsters, are very funny in their spotlight numbers, When I Find My Baby and Lady in the Long Black Dress.
As always, the technical aspects are excellent and Buddy Reeder’s choreography fits that smallish stage smoothly. I am always amazed at how this theatre manages to do almost any size show in such a limited space, but they always do!
Sister Act, the Musical only plays two more weeks, closing on May 29; so arrange tickets now. It’s a delightful evening of good food and fun theatre.
For information, phone 800-477-9505 or go online at firesidetheatre.com.