Sister Act at the Orpheum Theatre: ‘Sister Act’ or ‘Legally Blonde: Gospel Edition’?

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I was going to say that Sister Act was basically a Catholic version of The Book of Mormon, but then I decided thatSister Act didn’t deserve to be compared to such a great musical. Now that I think about it, Sister Act was more like one of my least favorite musicals – one that I had the unfortunate pleasure of being cast in earlier this year – Legally Blonde. Chock-full of forced humor, annoying characters, and songs that sound the exact same as every other song, the amazingly talented performers deserved to be cast in a better show.

Sister Act, a musical based on the 1992 comedy, follows the life of Deloris, a nightclub singer who is forced to hide away in a convent as she is being followed by her murderous “friend” Curtis. Sister Act runs through June 1st at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis.

Cast members’ resumés were nothing short of impressive, and their talent proved it. With Broadway credentials, film/television roles, and past national tours galore, this cast could not have been better. Unfortunately, these performers, like Ta’rea Campbell (Deloris), Hollis Resnik (Mother Superior), and Chester Gregory (Eddie) for example, had to have their talent wasted on this B-grade musical. Like Legally Blonde, the show was humorous, but the humor and jokes were clearly forced. The main character, Deloris, was pretty much an African-American Elle Woods, her fellow sisters at the convent acting like Elle’s sorority sisters. I was hoping that there would be at least a little bit of character development for her character especially, but the plot moved way too quickly for that to even be possible, resulting in a one-faced character for the whole show. I can only take so much sass in one evening! One refreshing moment in the show however, was Eddie’s gospel ballad “I Could be That Guy”. The lyrics and choreography were genuinely funny, and Chester Gregory is such a natural when it comes to comedic timing.

One thing I should definitely mention is the tech design as a whole – it was very impressive! The lighting design was so creative in turning a convent into an almost gospel-rock concert. The use of different colored gels and lights to mimic stained glass windows was brilliant, and added a lot to the set design. The set design was also very intriguing in that it wasn’t necessarily trying to turn the stage into a convent or nightclub, but rather used abstract forms of set pieces to put a nice artsy spin on the show. My one technical complaint would have to be with the sound design. For the entire first act, I could barely hear the performers on stage because the mics were so quiet. I’m assuming this was just an opening night glitch because they were able to fix it for the second act. Overall, the tech design was carefully thought out and added a whole new enjoyable aspect to the show.

Though the musical was, as my friend Alison and I agree, “charming”, the poorly written script did not do its talented cast members justice. If you’re just looking for a relaxing evening of laughs, and you aren’t such a theatre critic like myself, you will probably enjoy this musical, but it’s definitely one I think I’d only attend once.