You don’t have to be Catholic to enjoy Sister Act: A Divine Musical Comedy, playing now through Sunday at the Durham Performing Arts Center, but it does heighten the hilarity of this laugh-out-loud Broadway musical version of the 1992 film starring Whoopi Goldberg as a nightclub singer who witnesses a murder and is sent to hide out in a convent until the police can arrest the killer and bring him to trial.
An African-American Protestant, Deloris Van Cartier (portrayed and sung with flash and pizzazz aplenty by Ta’Rea Campbell) is no angel — and the unlikeliest candidate ever for the novitiate. Her fish-out-of-water reactions to convent life are a scream, and her run-ins with the convent’s strait-laced Mother Superior (sternly but compassionately played by Hollis Resnik) are entertaining encounters.
Mother Superior Deloris to the nuns as “Sister Mary Clarence,” and she may flunk the piety test but she knows how to whip the sadsack convent choir into shape. Soon they are attracting crowds to fill the formerly empty pews of their church, and even get the attention of the Holy Father himself! But although publicity of the choir is a good thing for the convent, it is a bad thing for Deloris — and puts her once again on the radar of her murderous gangster ex-boyfriend Curtis (played with palpable menace by Kingsley Leggs) and the three stooges who comprise his gang: his nincompoop nephew T.J., Joey, and Pablo (portrayed by Charles Barksdale, Todd A. Horman, and Ernie Pruneda). Indeed, Barksdale’s outrageous antics as T.J. make him a crowd favorite.
Also tickling the funny-bones of DPAC patrons are the choice comic characterizations by Lael Van Keuren as novice Sister Mary Robert, Florrie Bagel as hilariously hyper Sister Mary Patrick, Diane J. Findlay as the aged but still lively Sister Mary Lazarus, E. Clayton Cornelious as police Lt. “Sweaty Eddie” Souther, and Richard Pruitt as the jovial Monsignor O’Hara.
The exuberant musical staging of Broadway and West End director Jerry Zaks, choreographer Anthony Van Laast — recreated on tour with brio by associate director Steven Beckler, associate choreographer Janet Rothermel, and musical director Brent-Alan Huffman — combines with the spectacular soaring sets of scenic designer Klara Zieglerova and the flamboyant fashions of costume designer Lez Brotherston to make this latest film-turned-musical a production to remember.
SECOND OPINION: May 15th Durham, NC Herald-Sun review by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/lifestyles/x1592158767/REVIEW-A-joyful-noise-at-Sister-Act and May 10th preview by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/lifestyles/x1592156210/-Sister-Act-brings-disco-to-a-convent (Note: You must register to read this article); May 15th Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/05/15/2894680/sister-act-makes-successful-shift.html; and May 15th Triangle Arts and Entertainment review by Susie Potter: http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2013/05/sister-act-makes-a-flawless-transition-from-film-to-stage-in-dpacs-charming-production/. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the May 14th Triangle Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2013/05/unlike-the-1992-film-sister-act-a-divine-musical-comedy-is-set-in-philadelphia-in-the-1970s/.)
The Durham Performing Arts Center presents SISTER ACT: A DIVINE MUSICAL COMEDY at 7:30 p.m. May 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), firstname.lastname@example.org, 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: A Divine Musical Comedy (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).
Brent-Alan Huffman (music director/conductor) https://www.facebook.com/brentalan.huffman/ (his Facebook page) and http://ibdb.com/person.php?id=112684 (Internet Broadway Database).
Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Review, a FREE weekly e-mail arts newsletter. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Review.
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To read all of Robert W. McDowell’s Triangle Review previews and reviews online at Triangle Arts & Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/robert-w-mcdowell/.