Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
Set in Philadelphia in 1978, an aspiring nightclub singer Deloris Van Cartier (Patrece Bloomfield) unwittingly witnesses her married boyfriend, gangster and nightclub owner Curtis Shank (Don Seward), kill someone he believes has squealed on him to the cops. Bloomfield is well cast as Deloris, but Whoopi Goldberg is admittedly a hard act to follow. Bloomfield has the basic character, but seems to be marking both her singing and acting at different parts in the show and doesn't always connect with the audience. Seward is both suave and menacing as Curtis. He is the essence of a modern day gangster as he shares in song his plans for Deloris in "When I Find My Baby."
Hotly pursued by Curtis's trio of thugs, consisting of his nephew TJ (Elijah Wood), Joey (Michael Cartwright), and Pablo (Pasqualino Beltempo), Deloris beats a hasty retreat. The three men are wonderful comic relief as they bumble their way through their pursuit of Deloris. They each get a moment to shine in the song "Lady in the Long Black Dress" as they share visions of how they would entice Deloris to come with them. Wood is the strongest character actor of the three, but caries his very funny cartoonish characterization a bit too far, inappropriately stealing focus in some scenes.
Deloris flees to the police station, where she discovers the police chief is an old classmate named Eddie Souther (Andre Russell). Knowing that she is in grave physical danger until she can testify against Curtis in court, Eddie disguises her as a nun and hides her in the convent of the Holy Order of the Little Sisters of Our Mother of Perpetual Faith. Eddie admits to his childhood crush on Deloris, and vows to keep her safe until the date of the trial. Though their scenes together are enjoyable, there is not much chemistry between Russell and Bloomfield. Russell is also not quite big enough with his character, and bigger choices would make his song "I Could Be That Guy" even better, because the fantasy version of himself would be more opposite his every day persona.
When Deloris arrives at the convent, her street-wise edge is met with disapproval from the Mother Superior (Danette Cuming) who seeks only to protect her convent and its sisters from the ravages of the outside world. Cuming is a talented actress and singer. Her "Here Within These Walls" is both beautifully sung and heartfelt in its delivery. Her timing is very good, and her tastefully understated reactions speak volumes.
Attempting to fit in as just another nun, Deloris bonds with the sisters: timid Mary Robert (Jessica Brooke Sanford), the exuberant Mary Patrick (Margot Moreland), and the crusty Mary Lazarus (Leslie Wolfe). Wolfe is a hoot in a role originated in the film by Mary Wickes. Her gruff voice and brusque mannerisms are hilarious. The image of her rapping as she is draped in QVC-style gold chains is one that is hard to forget. Seasoned actress Margot Moreland is perfect as the ever eager and optimistic Mary Patrick. Jessica Brooke Sanford blows the roof off with her voice in the character defining song "The Life I Never Led."
As the sisters discover their convent is up for sale and they may all be separated, Deloris comes up with the idea of raising money through public performances. Her stage experience leads her to stylize these performances with as much glitz and soul as possible. The resulting costumes and choral song arrangement are the source of many laughs. And here is where this production nails it. Their colorful costuming and staging of the large ensemble of nuns, and the voices they have hired, make for a great visual and audio impact. I found their use of the stage both intelligent and enjoyable. The truth is that the book for this musical doesn't translate the story to the stage quite as well as it should, leaving far too much of the success of the production on the shoulders of the female lead. Finding something more to concentrate on and entertain the audience with is smart direction. And the fact that The Wick has access to vast costuming resources means that they can do justice to the ever-changing habits the nuns wear while doing the public performances. One costume note from a Catholic named for a Monsignor, howeverin reference to Monsignor O'Hara's costumes, a surplice or cape is never worn without a cassock. It made me a little crazy every time he walked on stage without one.
When the time comes for Deloris, Eddie, and all the nuns to pull together for the safety and protection of all, the women discover the real meaning of sisterhood. And just like in the movie, there is a happy ending for all (except the gangsters and thugs). While this is not a favorite musical, I actually enjoyed this production at The Wick more than I did the one on Broadway.
Sister Act opened on Broadway on April 20, 2011 at the Broadway Theatre, closing after 561 performances on August 26, 2012. The Broadway production received five Tony Award nominations including Best Musical, Best Actress in a Musical, and Best Featured Actress in a Musicalbut no wins.
Composer Alan Menken also composed the scores for The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, Newsies, Home on the Range, Enchanted, Entangled, The Shaggy Dog and Mirror, Mirror. He is best known for his work on films produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios. His scores for The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and Pocahontas have each won him two Academy Awards.
Sister Act will be appearing at the Wick Theatre through December 23, 2016. The Wick Theatre & Costume Museum is located at 7901 N. Federal Highway in Boca Raton, Florida. It houses a 330-seat theatre, the Broadway Collection Costume Museum, and the Wick Tavern, open for lunch or dinner. For more information you may contact them by phone at 561-955-2333, 561-955-2333 or online at www.thewick.org.
*Designates member of Actor's Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.