‘Sister Act’ Is A Triumph At STAGES St. Louis
It’s disco versus the divine, and sequins against sermonettes in this stage version of “Sister Act.” And the results are fabulous from start to finish. The show runs through Oct. 9, 2016 at the Kirkwood Recreation Center.
But if (like me) you ever feel sorry for stage actors who inherit roles best known from the movies, don’t worry: You won’t have to pity anyone this time out.
Under the direction of Michael Hamilton, Dan’Yelle Williamson is terrific as Deloris Van Cartier (played by Whoopi Goldberg in 1992’s popular film) and Corinne Melancon creates a Mother Superior of real depth and meaning, building nicely on the legacy of the great Maggie Smith. Together, they’re fresh and delightful.
Likewise, Michele Burdette Elmore inherits a (cantankerous) nun’s life from St. Louisan Mary Wickes; and Sarah Michelle Cuc takes on another beloved role, originated by Kathy Najimy. Ms. Elmore is splendid as Sister Mary Lazarus, and Ms. Cuc ‘out-Najimy’s’ Ms. Najimy herself, as Sister Mary Patrick: a bubbly, high-on-life whirlwind of a girl.
But none of that would matter in the end, if the new songs (and the steady barrage of jokes) didn’t work so very well too. Writing alumni from the TV sitcom “Cheers,” “Cheri Steinkellner” and “Bill Steinkellner,” authored “Sister Act’s” relentlessly funny dialog, with strong idiomatic songs by Glenn Slater and Alan Menken.
Being sensible theater people, of course, they didn’t want to pay for all those famous Motown numbers used in the original movie. So instead Slater and Menken did very well coming up with perfectly delightful substitutes on their own. There are Donna Summer-style disco numbers, Al Green-style love songs, and Barry White-style R&B tunes, too.
All of them work, which is more than you can say about a lot of modern musical numbers.
Curtis Wiley is charming as the lovelorn police officer, assigned to protect Deloris (his best songs are in the Al Green style), while Steve Isom is great as the priest who oversees the sad decline and glorious rebirth of a convent and church. And Kent Overshown surprises by mixing menace and romance, as Deloris’ gangster boyfriend (he’s the Barry White-style singer).
The recently retired NPR personality Garrison Keillor has called his “A Prairie Home Companion” “church for people who don’t go to church.” And “Sister Act” fills much the same purpose, with tons of nearly insane showmanship (especially in the second act); and even a few spiritual insights to match wits with today’s sharpest priests or pastors.
Sinfully (and spiritually) delicious.
From left: Dan’yelle Williamson (Deloris Van Cartier), Jessie Hooker (Sister Mary Wilson), Michele Burdette Elmore (Sister Mary Lazarus), Sarah Michelle Cuc (Sister Mary Patrick), Leah Berry (Mary Robert) and Morgan Amiel Faulkner (Sister Mary Miguel). Photo by Peter Wochniak.