Nancy Sasso Janis
OnStage Connecticut Critic
Thomaston CT - Imagine having the privilege of being cast in a production of a show that is being directed by an actress that built the show on Broadway from the ground up. That is the case for the spectacular cast of Landmark Community Theatre’s ‘Sister Act’ that opened at the Thomaston Opera House on Saturday evening. Marissa Follo Perry brings her Broadway experience to help this cast build their version of the show and the result is “Fabulous, Baby.
Ms. Perry writes in her director’s note that “rarely, in musical theater, are there stories about women from different worlds, coming together to teach each other and grow together.
This is hugely why ‘Sister Act’ is so special.” She goes on to urge the audience to appreciate the “beautiful, talented, hard working [and high-belting] group of ‘Nuns’” that are one of the best parts of the musical.
When these ladies are onstage singing, dancing and joking, all is right with this theatrical world. I liked the touring company production of ‘Sister Act’ that I saw at Waterbury’s Palace Theater, but I loved seeing the roles played by our talented community theatre veterans.
The music by Alan Menken with lyrics by Glenn Slater made me want to raise my voice and the book by Cheri and Bill Steinkellner with additional book materials by Douglas Carter Beane was easy to follow once I gave up wanting it to be exactly like the beloved Touchstone Pictures Motion Picture starring Whoopi Goldberg. There were some great comic lines that are even funnier to a Catholic person and I delighted in watching the reactions of the character actors that I have so often seen onstage.
Sasha Brown raised fabulousness to a new level in the role of Deloris Van Cartier. Last seen at LCT in ‘Memphis,’ this powerhouse has the vocal chops and necessary attitude to pull off the role of this unlikely nun. Equally as strong was the performance of Priscilla Squiers as the stalwart Mother Superior; this community theatre veteran was in fine voice and nailed the comedic touches.
The talented Becky Sawicki was the perfect choice for the role of the young postulate Sister Mary Robert. She played Connie in LCT’s ‘1940’s Radio Hour’ as well as Ariel in ‘The Little Mermaid,’ and here she pulled off another transformation as a timid nun who finds her voice. Kathy Cook played a chubby nun (again) and was a hoot as Sister Mary Patrick. Susie Hackel perfectly executed a bit of rap as Sister Mary Lazarus, Chrissy Flynn made us laugh as Sister Mary Martin-Of-Tours, and Jane Coughlin was the adorable Sister Mary Theresa.
The wonderful nuns of the ensemble included Denise Howard, Stephanie Varanelli Miles, Patti Rice, Debbie Videtto, Patti Paganucci, Lynn D’Ambrosi, Bev Delventhal-Sali, Rhiannon Carta, Laureen Monge, Chelsea Pollard, Loretta Fedrick and Cat Gomez. Given their veiled heads, it was not easy to pick out the various actresses in the crowd but each and every one gave a great performance.
The amazingly talented Moses Beckett could not have been more charming as the cop trying to hide Deloris from her former boyfriend. I loved watching him try to be geeky and his rendition of ‘I Could Be That Guy’ was a highlight for me.
On opening night, Steve Sorriero replaced Lyle Ressler as Monsignor O’Hara and pulled it off remarkably well. Daniel Fedrick sang nicely as the dangerous Curtis. His partners in crime were played by Kyle Davis as TJ, Diwan Keno Glass as Joey, the amazing Daniel Beaudoin as Pablo and at this performance Watertown HS’ Joshua Viltrakis covered the role of the doomed Ernie.
Stephanie Varanelli Miles and Chelsea Pollard played Deloris’ backup singers in the first scene and were quite fabulous themselves. Shelby Davis, Jakob Buckley, Cat Gomez and Lynn D’Ambrosi covered various other parts.
The backstage orchestra was pretty amazing under the direction of Dan Ringuette and included four lucky pit singers. John Carter provided the synchronized choreography. Keith Winager was in charge of the scenic design that worked well and Carol Koumbaros did a sparkly job with creating the wonderful costumes, some of them breakaway in nature. Everything was well-lit by Alex Dunn, but it was frustrating when some of the lines of the supporting actors could not be heard. Kudos to Lauren Stango on managing what must have been a busy backstage.
On the well-attended opening night, Landmark recognized long-time volunteer Bob Brophy. A talented scenic painter who has helped with virtually every show over the past five years, he was presented with paint brushes and a video tribute. Enjoying the first performance of ‘Sister Act’ near me were (Ms. Perry’s mother) Joyce Jeffrey, Joanne Chenkus, actress Theresa Pitts-Amico, and many fans of Mr. Beckett. And it was so special when the director herself came over to greet the cast member of Naugatuck Teen Theatre’s ‘Guys and Dolls’ (who she had also directed) that was seated next to me.
I highly recommend a trip to the jewelbox Thomaston Opera House to see this divine musical comedy that is perfectly directed and performed by an incredibly talented cast. ‘Sister Act’ continues through May 1 and tickets are available through the LCT website.
Photo by Landmark Community Theatre