By Allison Klamkin
Turning a big-screen box office hit into a Broadway musical isn't a new trend. More often than not, you get exactly what you think you're going to get: a few new upbeat songs and dialogue spewed verbatim from the same recognizable characters.
Sister Act: The Musical, which is based on the hit 1992 Whoopi Goldberg film by the same name (Goldberg produces the musical, as well), takes the beloved story of Deloris Van Cartier, a nightclub singer, who witnesses her sleazy boyfriend commit a murder and must disguise herself as a nun and hide in a convent in order to protect herself. And you don't have to be Catholic to have a good time.
Director Jerry Zaks and the rest of the creative team have given Sister Act a fresh spin with a brand new score, witty dialogue and intricate sets and costumes. Book writers Cheri & Bill Steinkellner (who wrote the sitcom "Cheers") and Douglas Carter Beane (who brought Xanadu to life on the Broadway stage) have amped up the movie's memorable dialogue to come up with some great one-liners and witty dialogue.
Composer Alan Menken (The Little Mermaid and Little Shop of Horrors) and lyricist Glenn Slater (Broadway's The Little Mermaid, Tangled) have written songs that make you leave the theater humming them for days afterward. Costume designer Lez Brotherson takes the audience on a visual journey, outfitting nightclub singers, con artists, police officers and a convent full of nuns. He creates gorgeous costumes that when paired with Klara Zieglerova's elaborate and beautiful set designs, fill the large stage of the Broadway theater with ease. The show is also aesthetically pleasing and often funny, as well (the mirror-ball Virgin Mary at the end of the show adds a nice touch).
Patina Miller, who is making her Broadway debut is perfectly imperfect as Deloris, the role made famous by Whoopi Goldberg on film, and that Miller originated in London two years ago. A down-on-her-luck diva who is sent to the convent, Miller shines as bright as her sequinedhabit as she goes from simply hiding out to teaching the tone-deaf ensemble of nuns to sing and she becomes a valued asset to the convent.
Tony Award winner Victoria Clark is the stern, but sweet, Mother Superior, head of the sisters at the Queen of Angels Church. She brings a wide range of emotion to the role, and comes to accept Deloris as one of her own. Chester Gregory is full of charisma as Eddie Souther, the police officer assigned to keep Deloris safe, and who once had a crush on her in high school. Fred Applegate is witty as Monsignor O'Hara, the priest who is desperate to keep the Queen of Angels up and running.
Kingsley Leggs is delightfully sleazy as Curtis Jackson, Deloris' boyfriend who is on the run after committing a murder. Sarah Bolt, Marla Mindelle and Audrie Neenan are a barrel of laughs as Sisters Mary Patrick and Mary Lazarus respectively. Marla Mindelle is especially impressive as the meek postulant Sister Mary Roberts, with a powerful voice that will send chills down your spine in her solo number. The ensemble is full of life and the production is two and a half hours of fun. A clever book will keep you laughing and the disco-infused score will have you singing as you leave the theater, and the talented cast delivers flawlessly.
Sister Act: The Musical opened on Broadway on April 20, 2011 and is playing at The Broadway Theatre.