Soul, funk, disco flavor

Sister Act at Moonlight Amphitheatre

Daebreon Poiema (center) and the sisters
  • Daebreon Poiema (center) and the sisters

Sister Act has arrived at Moonlight Amphitheatre with laugh-out-loud comedy and hand-clapping music. Based on the 1992 movie of the same name, the musical is created by Cheri and Bill Steinkellner (book), Alan Menken (music), and Glenn Slater (lyrics). This is a good summer show for the whole family.

Sister Act

Deloris Van Cartier, disco diva, witnesses a murder. Police put her in protective custody in the one place she’s certain not to be found: a convent, disguised as a nun. Soon she’s at odds with both the rigid lifestyle and an uptight Mother Superior.

While the creators have set the show in 1977 in Philadelphia, allowing the score to be flavored with soul, funk, and disco, some of the musical numbers do not impress.

The songs “ Raise Your Voice,” “Sunday Morning Fever,” “Bless Our House” seem to be very much alike one another and in performance. Cacophony results.

Yet many tunes strike the right notes as well as sustain the mood and flavor of the piece.“Take Me to Heaven” and “Fabulous, Baby!” — anthems sung at the top of the show by Deloris and her girls, are delightfully melodic with catchy rhythms.“When I Find My Baby” has unexpected tenderness but needs more stage time.“I Haven’t Got a Prayer” is a fabulous number and skillfully performed by Victoria Strong.

But it is Cornelius Jones, Jr., as Eddie who is the true standout performer. He sinuously moves through “I Could Be That Guy” with snake-like grace and captivating energy. His sly twists and turns and his voice give a whole new meaning to the term "body language."

His characterization of Eddie, the police detective in love with Deloris, starts out quietly and eventually builds to a strongly motivated man determined to get his woman. Conversely, Daebreon Poiema, as Deloris, comes on strong and bold and stays that way throughout, as the part requires. While she sings and dances with ease, it is her acting that shows great promise. In a show written with such broad comedic strokes, she manages to keep her role from becoming a caricature — no small feat, indeed.

This is a great showcase for character actors, and this cast makes the most of it, aided by their highly competent director, John Vaughan, who has infused showmanship into the production on many levels. Chief among these actors are Victoria Strong as Mother Superior and Jim Chovick as Monsignor O’Hara.

The costumes by the team of Roslyn Lehman, Renetta Lloyd, and Carlotta Malone are outstanding. These experts have managed to create nun and priest outfits à la Las Vegas but without being offensive. The book is quite weak and predictable at times but one rarely is allowed a moment to reflect upon that as movement, color, and infectious music dominate the stage.

Vaughan’s choreography is unusually simple and understated, but he knows when to focus on his exceptional dancers.

Playing through July 2

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