“Sister Act” wouldn’t have been such a popular movie or warranted a sequel if it weren’t doing something right. So is it any wonder that the musical loyally sticks to the film’s tried-and-true recipe? Sure, this production doesn’t pack any surprises, but its plot simplicity is made up for in humor and enthusiasm.
With the same premise as 1992’s film, this story of Deloris van Cartier (Patina Miller), showgirl-turned-sister, moves back in time to the 1970s. It’s smart to offer modifications so audiences won’t wonder why they shouldn’t just hit up Netflix for some Whoopi Goldberg nostalgia. Clearly, jukebox revues have shown that the older generation — aka ticket-buyers — are suckers for a time warp back to the good ol’ days. But this show is also billed as family fare, and children won’t recognize many of the dated references. Maybe they’ll just enjoy the likable characters (Fred Applegate’s monsignor might be the only weak link) and larger-than-life musical numbers without even realizing its not supposed to be current. Besides, how well do today’s kids even remember the ’90s?
Bright, splashy costumes add to the fun of this feel-good tale, lighting up the stage with sparkling sequins (helped by the requisite disco ball). The set pulls its weight to create looming monastic corridors just as ably as a jazzy nightclub. If only director Jerry Zaks knew how to help his actors transition as smoothly.
Even if it’s all about nuns, this show has nothing to do with modesty and moderation. With over-the-top character tropes (mob goons, repressed vestals) and heavy reliance on suspension of disbelief (miscommunications, overt coincidences), “Sister Act” is a wink-wink joke that everyone gets to be in on — or should we say, sing along to? A hallmark of good musicals is memorable show tunes; here, you’ll be humming Alan Menken’s choruses long after the curtain falls on the (spoiler alert!) happy ending.
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