"If you see only one good Catholic mass this season…"
Based on the 1992 Whoopi Goldberg movie, Rainbow Stage's Sister Act tells the story of down-on-her-luck lounge singer Deloris van Cartier, witness to a mob hit. As she turns into a police informant, she seeks refuge in the only place that will have her: a convent with too few congregants and too many bills.
There some changes between the film and Broadway musical. The timeframe is reset from the 90s to the 70s and the locale changes from Reno/San Francisco to Philadelphia.
The 70s switch is great fun with miles of sequins, acres of flare, and giant swinging mirror balls. The location change also adds a gritty take on the Philadelphia scene from that era.
Because this is a Broadway musical, the expectation is that the run time will stretch to at least two hours, or in this case, almost 2½ hours. The original movie ran at 100 minutes and this is where the adaptation runs into trouble.
In the best musicals, songs are used to move the action forward, but in this Broadway version many of the musical interludes delay the action, making the first act in particular feel particularly dragged out.
The good news is that the second act really sings. Donna Fletcher, as Mother Superior, stopped the show with her passionate rendition of "Haven't Got a Prayer," and postulant Mary Robert, played with sweetness and strength by Colleen Furlan, does well by "The Life I Never Led."
Indeed, it's the strong, talented women of the cast who make this production of Sister Act so worthwhile — which is not to cast aspersions on the men. In particular, Aadin Church as Police officer Sweaty Eddie and Michael-Lamont Lytle as mob boyfriend Curtis are both strong actors and gorgeous singers.
But big, female-focused casts are enough of a rarity that it really impresses on viewing.
Which brings me to the star of the show, Saccha Dennis as Deloris. Her characterization is seriously sassy, her dancing is on point and her singing is glorious. Enough said.
Noticeably, there were many children in the full-to-bursting opening night audience. So, the big question is whether a show that centres on an execution-style mob hit is really suitable for younger audience members. Surprisingly, the answer is "yes." Although there are several scenes with gun play, it is so underplayed or cartoon-y that the effect is greatly diluted and relatively family friendly.
Spread the good word: Rainbow Stage's Sister Act is music for the soul. It runs from Aug. 13 to Sept. 1 at Rainbow Stage.