Sister Act Brings Pure Joy to the Stage

The plot and details may be the same as the movie, but imagine every scene set to a song-and-dance number and comedy ensues.


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The sisterhood on stage.

Photo by Joan Marcus

Even if you’ve seen the 1992 movie Sister Act several times, the musical, now playing at Providence Performing Arts Center April 9−14, will bring something new to the stage. The plot and details may be the same as the film, but imagine every scene set to a song-and-dance number and comedy ensues. The musical received five 2011 Tony Award nominations, is produced by Whoopi Goldberg and directed by Jerry Zaks, and features an original score by Grammy and Golden Globe Award-winning composer Alan Menken.

I won’t ruin it for you, but there are some truly hilarious one-liners sprinkled throughout the play. These are not the predictable puns that are common in musicals, but laugh-out-loud lines that often push the envelope. Then there’s the show-stopping talent of Ta’Rea Campbell, who plays the lead role of Deloris Van Cartier – pronounced like the jeweler – and she successfully fills the shoes of Whoopi Goldberg, who played the role in the original film version. The range and power of her voice is so astounding, it’s possible she could command the stage without the need for a microphone.

In case you need a refresher, the story follows Deloris, a night club singer who witnesses a murder committed by her lover, Curtis Jackson, and she flees to the police station for help. There, she reunites with an old high school acquaintance, nicknamed Sweaty Eddie, and he helps her disappear by joining a convent. Deloris packs away her sequins and “FM boots” and hides her ostentatious self in a nun’s habit. She shakes up the solemn sisterhood by joining the choir and teaching the other nuns how to let their freak flags fly. Before long, the choir fills the church with worshippers eager to take in the lively performances at the altar. The black and white robes are replaced with colorful gowns, and the talent helps the church earn much-needed funds to keep the doors open. There’s only one problem; Deloris’s identity is hard to keep a secret at the church when all the local news stations start coming around. Curtis catches on, and soon he’s hot on her trail with his gang of cronies by his side.

Another incredible performance is given by E. Clayton Cornelious, a.k.a. Sweaty Eddie. He’s a true underdog who has a long way to go before he gains the confidence needed to be a real police officer. Guarding Deloris gives him an incentive to be fearless, and soon he evolves into the role of a true protector. There are also many standout nuns in the cast, from a shy postulant with an incredible voice to a bouncy, cheerful sister who has a whole lot of personality, and then there’s the elderly nun who could challenge Lil Wayne to a freestyle rap battle.

Another highlight of the show is the must-see set design. The fading stained glass windows transform into the stuff of technicolor dreams, and even the gigantic Mary statue gets in on the fun. With flashing lights and sparkles, sequins and glitter everywhere, “Sister Act” shines on.

Sister Act runs through April 14 at Providence Performing Arts Center, 220 Weybosset St., Providence. Tickets are available through the box office at 421-2787 or online at ppacri.org.



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