Hellllllllllllo and welcome to the funky, zany, hand-waving, booty-shaking talk of the town! The aspiring African-American club singer Deloris Van Cartier (she came up with the name herself—isn’t it good?) witnesses a terrifying murder at the hands of her lover, Curtis Jackson. When he sends his cronies and giggling nephew after her, Deloris looks to the police to hide her. And they choose the perfect spot. A convent! Deloris—now Sister Mary Clarence—causes the largest culture shock in the Roman Catholic world since the habit became the official nun’s outfit in the fourteenth century. Buckle your seat belts and grab your rosaries for a wildly fast ride at the Minneapolis Orpheum Theater: the Sister Act!
The script of the Sister Act launches the plot forward immediately, unlike other Broadway hits (Evita and Aida come to mind). With the murder of Joey, the entire story unfolds. The dialogue is well timed, and the comedic silences between Dolores and Mother Superior, the nun nemesis of Dolores, are extremely tight. The technical production is precise and the set design does justice to the entire story.
My major concern of this show is also why it is so hilarious. The stereotypes. The nuns in the show are so endearing, that is true. But they also perpetuate some of our society’s strongest stereotypes (which is unfortunately also true for many Broadway shows). The nuns are ignorant and afraid of the outside world. They are too modest for their own good, either very old or very young, and—above all—happy to break out of their days of drudgery. These stereotypes make for a wonderful comedy, but certainly don’t improve the reputation of Broadway as a place to break down barriers and oversimplifications. I hope that the future Broadway will be able to be both funny and truly insightful.
Nonetheless, the performance was an incredible display of vocal and comedic talent. The absolute stars are Ta’rea Campbell (Deloris) and Chester Gregory (Eddie Souther). Campbell is a rock star. Gergory, who also played Eddie in the original Sister Act, was surprisingly sweet and a phenomenal singer. An excellent costume swap on “I Could Be that Guy” baffled the entire audience. However, the ensemble of nuns was the heart of the production. Forrie Bagel (Mary Patrick) captured her character vividly. In figurative terms, she is a teddy bear in a habit. The only weaknesses in the vocal performance are when the lyrics of two characters overlapped and intelligibility drops to zero. Otherwise, everything went well.
The Sister Act is heartfelt. Although it relies on hackneyed conceptions of nuns and the Catholic Church, it accomplishes something greater than stereotypes. The best moment is when Deloris explains how when she wants to sing up a half step, all of the sisters change with her. It is a miracle, for sure, but what is the cause? “That’s what God is,” says Mother Superior. “Or that is what humans are,” Deloris counters. Mother Superior responds, “Or maybe, it’s both.” This is where the Sister Act succeeds with insight. But don’t forget the comedy, because it is everywhere. Don’t miss the chance to hear yourself smiling. It’s that good.