by Terrance Mc Arthur
Sister Act returns to Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater, with important parts and people from the 2017 Good Company Players production still intact. Camille Gaston is Doloris Van Cartier again, Ethel Birrell returns as a bubbly nun, and Laurie Pessano re-directs with style and strength. All of this against a background of Covid cancellations, substitutions, and understudies that underscore the depth and strength of the GCP casting pool.
Sister Act is a musical adapted from the 1992 Whoopi Goldberg comedy film of Deloris Van Cartier, a Vegas singer who witnesses her gangster boyfriend kill an employee. She is put into witness protection…as a nun, and the fish out of water makes a big splash. The stage version, transplanted to a Philadelphia setting, sports music by Alan Menken (Little Shop of Horrors, The Little Mermaid), lyrics by Glenn Slater (School of Rock), and a script by Cheri Steinkellner, Bill Steinkellner, and Douglas Carter Beane.
Gaston is a dynamo in her return engagement as Deloris, a wannabe star in 1978. She’s brash, rash, and not quite trash. Deloris breaks all the convent rules she meets, and somehow turns an off-key choir of nuns into a semi-flashy team of Vegas showgirls. Gaston is not a one-trick pony, here. Besides the disco-diva style, she shows warmth and growth as Deloris feels responsibility and sisterhood for her convent friends.
Terry Lewis corners the market on slime as Curtis Jackson, Deloris’ racketeer-boyfriend. He turns a love song into a litany of 50 ways to kill your lover with a smooth, oily smirk and a wig that looks somewhere between the Beatles and the Elvis comeback special. You could dismiss his evil if he wasn’t so good at it…and so cool.
Lorna Leslie as the Mother Superior manages to balance uncomfortableness with the worldly changes Deloris makes in the choir with a begrudging appreciation of how those changes turn a struggling parish into a thriving community, attracting crowds and parishioners.
Another 2017 returnee, Ethel Birrell captures the bubbly enthusiasm Kathy Najimy brought to the original film. Her vocal explosiveness is impressive. She always brings oodles of fun to every part she plays.Daniel Hernandez is “Sweaty” Eddie Southern, given an unfortunate nickname in childhood when he knew Deloris. Now a policeman, he tries to keep her safe, and wishes she could see in him what he could see in her. His showstopper number includes some costume-change wizardry by Ginger Kay Lewis-Reed, who drenches the stage in ‘70s glitz and glam and polyester.
In pandemic times, understudies are often called in to substitute. Last week, Eric Bako and Meg Clark were among the temporary replacements. Bako cheerfully showed the evolution of the Monsignor from a concerned cleric to a glittering master of ceremonies for the choir. Clark belted a heartfelt number as a novice doubting her calling and wondering if there could be more to her life. Different roles, wonderful performances.
It’s a bright, silly, fast-paced evening. These days, what more could you ask? Sister Act plays through September 11 at 1226 N. Wishon at Olive. For more information, call (559) 266-9494 or go to gcplayers.com and on KRL’s theatre event page.
If you love local theatre, be sure to check out Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors. You can find the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, and also on podbean.