'Sister Act' is a high-energy show with plenty of attitude

For the News-DemocratNovember 27, 2013 

Now set in Philadelphia in the disco-era 1970s, "Sister Act" is a joyous musical comedy that celebrates sisterhood. The stage adaptation of the popular Whoopi Goldberg 1992 movie features energetic performances, an appealing ensemble, good humor, and copious amounts of big hair and polyester. It's "Soul Train" meets "Starsky and Hutch" with a touch of "The Trouble with Angels."

Lounge singer Deloris Cartier has dreams of making it big, Donna Summer-style, but her glitzy career is put on hold as she is placed in hiding after witnessing a murder. She's a fish-out-of-water, all right, for her new identity is Sister Mary Clarence, and she's in a church convent run by a strict authoritarian Mother Superior. Let the conflicts begin!

An inferior choir is given a jazzy makeover by Deloris, as she injects her soul stylings and the other nuns get their groove on. Soon they attract publicity. It's good for the parish but not for a witness in protection, and the heat is on.

What makes this such a fun show is the way the performers infuse their characters with a playfulness and plenty of attitude. Chester Gregory is winsome as the cop Eddie Souther, who had a crush on Deloris in high school. Diane Findlay is a hoot as Sister Mary Lazarus, while giggly Florrie Bagel just makes you smile as the comical Sister Mary Patrick. Richard Pruitt is also effective as Monsignor O'Hara, a realist moved by the music, too.

But the show belongs to the two strong leads -- Ta'rea Campbell as life force Deloris and Hollis Resnik as the Mother Superior who finally comes around.

The show sparkles with high-energy production numbers and glittery costumes, and everything moves at a zippy pace. With music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Glenn Slater, the songs are very much reminiscent of that era, and just fun.

This is an entertainment trifle of a show, not offensive for Christians nor a chore to sit through. They "Spread the Love Around" and you'll feel the "Sunday Morning Fever" too.

"Sister Act" is at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis through Sunday.

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