Some movies that have been made into musicals have been huge successes from an artistic standpoint—think Little Shop of Horrors, Hairspray and Newsies. Others have been less memorable—think The Producers, The King and I, Spiderman. Sister Act, based on the hit film of the same name, definitely belongs in the first category. It stays true to much of the film’s basic story, but the score is quirky enough and the script different enough to make it work on stage.
Playing at the Gateway Playhouse in Bellport, Sister Act is raucous without being raunchy, loaded with one-liners and scenarios designed to make audiences laugh out loud.
Deloris Van Cartier, played by the vivacious Rashidra Scott, is a sultry singer hoping to fulfill her dreams of stardom. Her boyfriend, gangster Curtis Jackson (played here by Apollo Levine), is married but has made false promises to Deloris. Just as Deloris decides to call it quits with Curtis, though, she stumbles into a murder scene—Curtis has shot a member of his gang he suspects has ratted them out to the cops. Terrified, Deloris flees to the police to report the crime.
Meeting police captain Eddie Souther, Deloris realizes he is actually “Sweaty Eddie,” whom she knew in high school and who had a crush on the beautiful Deloris. Eddie decides Deloris needs to hide from Curtis, and he finds the perfect hiding place where Curtis wouldn’t dream of looking: a convent.
So the outspoken and worldly Deloris becomes Sister Mary Clarence, banished to a world where material possessions do not matter. She clashes instantly with the Mother Superior, played by Jennifer Allen. Both actresses are powerhouses. Rashidra Scott has portrayed Deloris both on Broadway and with the national tour of Sister Act. She is a formidable singer who expertly uses the nuances of her voice. From sultry and low to loud and proud, Rashidra as Deloris is a confident, sexy starlet with a stage presence that will blow you away.
A veteran of her role on Broadway, Jennifer Allen as Mother Superior is spot on, capturing the haughty exterior of the character. Allen lets us feel the power and grace of her voice in the moving solo “Haven’t Got a Prayer.”
But the group number “It’s Good to Be a Nun” is where the playful side of Sister Act starts to show. The nuns are a loveable, irresistibly witty crew of characters. Our main Sisters are the outgoing Sister Mary Patrick, the shy and quiet Sister Mary Robert and the aged and hysterical Sister Mary Lazarus. When Deloris finds herself at choir practice with
a choir that can’t sing, she realizes she might have found something to do while she’s hiding out. During the number “Raise Your Voice,” Deloris coaxes the talent from her choir of nuns, from the piano playing genius of Sister Mary Lazarus to the hidden voice of Sister Mary Robert. They turn Deloris
Van Cartier’s number “Take Me to Heaven” into a gospel showstopper.
Other favorite numbers include “Fabulous, Baby” sung spectacularly by Rashidra Scott as Deloris. The comical supporting numbers “When I Find My Baby,” “I Could Be That Guy,” and “Lady In the Long Black Dress,” keep the mood of the musical light. Sister Mary Robert’s solo “The Life I Never Led,” was touching and sung beautifully by Celeste Rose. The title song “Sister Act” was surprisingly soft and moving, sung by Rashidra Scott, and really gave heart and soul to the show. The final number, “Spread the Love Around,” sung by the entire company, will get you up on your feet, dancing and clapping along with the cast.
Sister Act is fun and upbeat, with an exciting story and stellar talent, and a musical score that is spectacular.
Sister Act, playing now through July 18 at the Gateway Playhouse in Bellport. For information visit gatewayplayhouse.com.