Sister Act, which is now playing in Raleigh Little Theatre’s Cantey V. Sutton Theatre, under the direction of Nancy Gardner Rich, is a feel-good story about a scrappy Detroit lounge singer, Delores Van Cartier (“Car-ti-YAY — like the store,” she says), who dreams that her big voice and dance moves will lead to fame and fortune. But when Delores (played at RLT by Tyanna West) witnesses a murder, she is forced to go into the witness protection program until she can testify; and the safest place for her to be is the local convent.
Even though Delores’ big personality is a breath of fresh air for the nuns living at the convent, Delores struggles to understand and live the life of a nun. In fact, she often exasperates the convent’s Mother Superior (played by Alison Lawrence), who knows that Delores is in hiding but agrees to allow her to pretend to be the visiting nun named Mary Clarence.
Ultimately, Delores starts to teach music to the convent choir; and as they say, all hell breaks loose. Soon, the ragtag choir is making news and getting large donations with their sassy dance moves and cheeky songs of praise to the Lord. But the fame that Delores brings could threaten her safety, as the mob picks up her trail and closes in on her.
We all know the award-winning movie, starring Whoopi Goldberg. Well, guest director Nancy Rich and the cast and crew at Raleigh Little Theatre have done a fantastic job of bringing this 2009 West End and 2011 Broadway musical, with its Alan Menken and Glenn Slater score, to the stage. Thursday night, during the musical’s final dress rehearsal, the cast had the audience laughing and tapping their toes throughout the show.
The song lyrics and music were funny, pointed, and lots of fun. For instance, when the thugs break into song and cheerily sing a doo-wop song, it suddenly dawned on us that the lyrics, “I’m gonna find that girl, I’m going to kill that girl, when I find my baby I’m not going to let her go,” were not a loving tribute. This ain’t yo mama’s doo-wop. Accompanied by the coordinated dance moves reminiscent of The Spinners or The Four Tops, it had the audience in stiches.
Costumes were straight out of the 1970s. Bellbottoms, patchwork jeans, men in leather jackets, and ladies in go-go boots. There were tons of costume changes, and each hit a perfect note. And there must have been more than a dozen set changes, each transition smooth as silk.
So many characters were given moments to shine that it hardly seems fair not to mention them all. However, there were really two stars of this production: Tyanna West and Alison Lawrence. West’s Delores was the sun in the middle of the universe. Not only can she sing like a bird, but her timing and wit brought Delores to life.
The moon to her sun was the Mother Superior, played superbly by Alison Lawrence. Lawrence’s strong vocals and calm demeanor were perfect for the head of a nunnery, and her slow awakening to the good in Delores was wonderful to watch.
We really can’t recommend this production enough. Our only caveat: There is some strong language in the show; and while we don’t think God will mind, some parents of small children might.
SECOND OPINION: Aug. 17th Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh BWW Review by Jeffrey Kare: https://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-Review-Raleigh-Little-Theatres-SISTER-ACT-20180817; Aug. 15th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: https://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/sister-act/Event?oid=16989642; and July 29th Raleigh, NC News & Observer mini-preview by Roy C. Dicks: https://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/article215505405.html. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Aug. 17th Triangle Review review by Robert O’Connell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2018/08/rlts-rendition-of-sister-act-is-the-perfect-introduction-to-musical-theater-for-theatergoers-of-all-ages/.)
Raleigh Little Theatre presents SISTER ACT at 8 p.m. Aug. 18, 3 p.m. Aug. 19, 8 p.m. Aug. 23-25, 3 p.m. Aug. 26, 8 p.m. Aug. 30-Sept. 1, 3 p.m. Sept. 2, 8 p.m. Sept. 6-8, and 3 p.m. Sept. 9 in RLT‘s Cantey V. Sutton Theatre, 301 Pogue St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27607.
TICKETS: $28 ($24 students and seniors 62+).
BOX OFFICE: 919-821-3111 or https://raleighlittletheatre.secure.force.com/ticket/#details_a0S0V00000zs1nWUAQ.
SHOW: https://raleighlittletheatre.org/shows/sister-act/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/261224264463208/.
RLT‘S 2018-19 SEASON: https://raleighlittletheatre.org/shows-and-events/memberships/.
PRESENTER: https://raleighlittletheatre.org/, https://www.facebook.com/RaleighLittleTheatre, https://twitter.com/RLT1936, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raleigh_Little_Theatre, and http://www.youtube.com/user/raleighlittletheatre.
NOTE 1: All shows are wheelchair accessible, and assistive-listening devices are available for all shows. RLT has also installed a hearing loop in the Cantey V. Sutton Theatre.
NOTE 2: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 26th and Sept. 9th, performances.
Sister Act (1992 film): http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/19569/Sister-Act/ (Turner Classic Movies page), https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0105417/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sister_Act (Wikipedia).
Sister Act (2006 Pasadena Playhouse, 2007 Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, 2009 West End, and 2011 Broadway musical): https://www.mtishows.com/sister-act (Music Theatre International), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/sister-act-488902 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sister_Act_(musical) (Wikipedia).
Study Guide: https://www.chanhassendt.com/ArticleMedia/Files/PDFs/Group%20Sales/Sister%20Act/SisterAct_ShowGuide_2015.pdf (Chanhassen Dinner Theatres in Chanhassen, MN).
Alan Menken (music): http://www.alanmenken.com/ (official website), (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0579678/ (Internet Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Menken (Wikipedia).
Glenn Slater (lyrics): https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/glenn-slater-80644 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1637698/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glenn_Slater (Wikipedia).
Cheri Steinkellner (book): https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/cheri-steinkellner-488904 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0251482/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_and_Cheri_Steinkellner (Wikipedia).
Bill Steinkellner (book): https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/bill-steinkellner-488105 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0826137/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_and_Cheri_Steinkellner (Wikipedia).
Douglas Carter Beane (additional text): https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/douglas-carter-beane-407150 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0063819/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_Carter_Beane (Wikipedia).
Nancy Gardner Rich (Raleigh, NC director and co-founder of Actors Comedy Lab): https://www.facebook.com/nancy.g.rich.3 (Facebook page) and https://twitter.com/bravemonkeygirl (Twitter page).
Pamela Vesper has been a Raleigh resident for more than 20 years. A local attorney for licensed professionals, when she’s not in court, Pam can be found watching or participating in local theater productions or enjoying the vibrant Raleigh music and craft beer scene. She also loves indie and foreign films and was an anchor on the local cable show, Movie Minutes. Pam has an opinion on just about everything; just ask her. Click here to read her reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.