Nuns And Music A Heavenly Combination PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 15 July 2016 19:35

It seems that, as with children and animals, you can never go wrong with a musical about nuns.

Sister Act  Wagon Wheel Theatre Warsaw INFrom “The Sound of Music” to the many, many, many incarnations of “Nunsense,” looking into life in a convent has always provided a wealth of source material, most of it tending to the humorous side.

Such a one is “Sister Act” which opened to a near-capacity crowd Wednesday evening at Warsaw’s Wagon Wheel Theatre.

Unlike the Rodgers & Hammerstein classic, which went from the stage to the screen, “Sister Act” began as a successful film comedy using existing pop music to an eventual Broadway success, with a score by composer Alan Menken and lyrics by Glenn Slater and additional book material by award-winning playwright Douglas Carter Beane.

The shift in creative team makes little difference in the WW version which, under the aegis of director/choreographer Scott Michaels, has resulted here in two and a half hours of just plain fun.

Whoopi Goldberg is nowhere to be found but Morgan Wood’s Deloris Van Cartier is, if not as quick on the one-liners, much better in the vocal and physical department. She can belt with the best of them and definitely looks like the Van Cartier her chosen stage name implies.

Sister Act  Wagon Wheel Theatre  WArsaw INThe theatrical version, however, gives much more space to the “featured” players, most especially Kira Lace Hawkins as the by-the-book Mother Superior; Elaine Cotter as the unsure Sister Mary Robert; Jennifer Dow as the grumpy-on-the-outside/soft-on-the-inside Sister Mary Lazarus; Cameron Mullin as police sergeant “Sweaty” Eddie; Chuckie Benson as Deloris’murderous ex Curtis Jackson; and his trio of bumbling henchmen — Joey (Joey Birchler), Pablo (Caleb Fath) and T.J. (Evan Duff, a double for Kevin Hart) — who deliver show-stopping renditions (with gestures!) of “When I Find My Baby” and “Lady in the Long Black Dress.”

Sister Act Wagon Wheel Theatre Warsaw INHawkins has, as past seasons have shown, a wonderfully warm and flexible voice and the ability to give credible life to any character, real or make believe. As much as Deloris, she is the anchor of this redemptive tale and their eventual collaboration is “made in heaven.”

Cotter’s clear soprano shows little sign of the uncertainty of her life path and when she regrets “The Life I Never Led” it strikes a responsive chord.

Dow is the glass-half-full nun who literally stops the show when she breaks out in the second act. But you have to see it to appreciate it. No spoilers here.

The same is true for Mullin as Deloris’ high school classmate who earns his nickname and then some in a beautifully loose-limbed declaration “I Could Be That Guy.”

Benson adds a solid third persona to his summer of ’16 repertoire as the South Philly gangsta who is out to silence his former chanteuse.

The WW ensemble again does double and triple duty in the high-stepping, fast-moving dances and creates wonderfully organized mayhem in the final Keystone Cops-style chase.

Sister Act  Wagon Wheel Theatre  Warsaw INHaving had a deafening experience this summer with a brass-heavy orchestra, I braced myself, especially for the opening nightclub sequence. Conductor/keyboardist Thomas N. Stirling, however, has his seven instrumentalists right as they should be — supportive, not overpowering.

The set design by Ray Zupp resembles, no surprise, an extended cross, which works well except when soloists venture to the ends of the extensions and are out of their light. Not fatal but annoying.

And, for those who thought a show set primarily in a convent meant a black-and-white costume plot, fa-ged-a-bou-dit. Designer Stephen R. Hollenbeck has loosed his love of sequins on the grand finale when everyone — and that means EVERYONE — sparkles brighter than the frequently-used mirror ball.

It is designed to bring everyone to their feet and, with no coaxing, the opening night hundreds instantly obliged!

SISTER ACT” plays through July 23 in the theater at 2515 E. Center St., Warsaw. For performance times and reservations, call (574) 267-8041 or visit

Last Updated on Friday, 15 July 2016 19:48

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