Just about every 90s kid (and adult) has seen the 1992 fish-out-of-water comedy “Sister Act” starring Whoopi Goldberg. Unfortunately, not everyone has had the incredibly fun experience of seeing the film brought to bigger and better life in its stage version as adapted by Cheri Steinkellner and Bill Steinkellner and playing now at DPAC.
Embarking on a slightly different path than the beloved film, the stage version first introduces Deloris Van Cartier (Ta’rea Campbell) as she’s belting her lungs out in a sassy musical number at her bad-news boyfriend, Curtis’ (Kingsley Leggs) club. Curtis is accompanied by his equally bad-news comrades, including a fluffy and incredibly funny character named TJ (Charles Barksdale), and things take a quick downward turn for Deloris when she witnesses Curtis and company killing a member of their posse. She then makes a run for it in a chase scene that features magically smooth scene transitions.
That initial chase scene may be where the magic starts in this charming and ultimately touching production, but it’s certainly not where it ends. Much of the magic must be attributed to Campbell, who positively shines in this fun role. With her powerhouse voice and her knack for being endearingly spunky, she delivers a performance that rivals—or is at least as good as—Goldberg’s in the original film. In fact, almost as a nod to the original actress, Campbell even manages to resemble a young Goldberg at certain angles.
While Campbell is definitely the star of the show, she’s not the only one who turns out a star performance. Once Deloris goes into hiding at a local convent, a colorful cast of nuns joins the fun. Hollis Resnik, as the fearful-of-change Mother Superior, adds more sass to the role than one might expect. And then there’s crotchety Mary Lazarus (Diane J. Findlay), a character who benefits from some perfectly-delivered and bitingly punchy one-liners, and joyful Mary Patrick, as portrayed by a cute-as-button Florrie Bagel. The entire cast of nuns is as delightful as can be expected, but the play doesn’t gloss over the film’s darker themes, though it does manage to make them humorous. In a dark musical number, for example, Curtis and crew deliver a jarringly hilarious rendition of “When I Find My Baby,” in which they detail the horrendous things they plan to do when they get their hands on Deloris.
The film and its multiple layers transfer perfectly to the stage. In fact, the transition works so well that the stage version may actually be better and fuller than the film—a rarity indeed. Though the show is played for mostly laughs and giggles, it ultimately delivers a powerful message: that faith and “the real world” can combine and that each can actually reinforce and strengthen the other. Prepare for fabulous songs, sequins and glitter snuck in whenever possible, and an ultimately heartfelt story about how one woman transforms a convent through music and how the convent transforms her through love.
The Durham Performing Arts Center presents SISTER ACT at 7:30 p.m. May 15 and 16, 8 p.m. May 17, 2 and 8 p.m. May 18, and 12:30 and 5:30 p.m. May 19 at DPAC, in the American Tobacco District, at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701.
TICKETS: $42.50-$111.00 (including fees), except $17.50 Student Rush Tickets (plus a service fee if purchased online), located on Row P of the Balcony.
DPAC Box Office: 919-680-ARTS (2787), tickets@DPACnc.com, or http://www.DPACnc.com/events/how_to_buy_tickets.
Ticketmaster: 800-745-3000 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115558/1555394.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919/281-0587, Groups@DPACnc.com, or http://www.DPACnc.com/events/group_services.
VIDEO PREVIEW: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdDsU5CsP8g.
CONTEST (win two opening-night tickets and a $20 gift card for Bull City Burger and Brewery): http://www.DPACnc.com/contests/detail/raise-your-voice-with-sister-act.
NOTE 1: The Durham Performing Arts Center will sell Student Rush Tickets, located on Row P of the Balcony, for just $17.50 (plus a service fee if purchased online). For details, click http://www.DPACnc.com/events/special_offers.
NOTE 2: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the 2 p.m. Saturday, May 18th, performance.
Sister Act (1992 film): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sister_Act (Wikipedia) and http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0105417/ (Internet Movie Database).
Sister Act (2006 musical): http://www.sisteractthemusical.com/ (official website), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sister_Act_%28musical%29 (Wikipedia), and http://ibdb.com/show.php?id=488902 (Internet Broadway Database).
North American Tour: http://sisteractbroadway.com/ (official website).
Tour Cast: http://sisteractbroadway.com/cast.html (official web page).
Tour Creative Team: http://sisteractbroadway.com/creative.html (official web page).