“Sister Act” opened on April 20th, 2011 at the Broadway Theatre in New York City. Based on the 1992 movie by the same name, and produced by Whoopi Goldberg, the musical was another collaboration by Glenn Slater (lyrics) and Alan Menken (music) with a book written by Cheri and Bill Steinkellner and additional book material by Douglas Carter Beane. Jerry Zaks directed the show with Anthony Van Laast choreographing the show. The Off Broad Street Players production was directed and choreographed by John Stephan with Walter Webster musical directing. In the past few productions OBSP has really elevated their productions and “Sister Act” falls right in line with the wonderful shows that have become a South Jersey community theatre standard.
In case you might not have seen the movie starring Whoopi Goldberg, it centers around Delores Van Cartier and her hopes of becoming a famous singer. When she unwittingly becomes a witness to a murder by her boyfriend Curtis Jackson, Delores turns to childhood friend, policeman Eddie Souther. He decides to hide Delores in a convent under the care of the Mother Superior, who begrudgingly takes her in but does not accept her as much as the other nuns in the convent. The story takes Delores, Mother Superior and the nuns on an interesting journey of self exploration, understanding, faith and seeing the signs that surround us and remind us of being who we want to be.
OBSP’s “Sister Act” was such a wonderful experience. Carmen Delia Bryant delivers as Deloris and off the bat with the song “Take Me to Heaven” commands the stage. Ms. Bryant brought an emotional range of character and vocals were solid. It is also a pleasure to see a dramatic arts teacher out performing and demonstrating technique that is being taught in the classroom. Mr. Justin Henry delivered a solid performance in his stage debut and played Curtis as a very cool and calculated criminal boss. Domonic Barnes (Eddie Souther) delivers a nice performance, and Melanie Lamanteer delivered a wonderful performance as Mother Superior. Her performance in “Haven’t Got a Prayer” was truly heartfelt as she brought the change of her character’s heart in through the music. What stole the show to me were the performances of Victoria Mozitis (Sister Mary Robert), Lauren Fazenbaker (Sister Mary Patrick) and Shannon Sheridan (Sister Marty Lazarus). The three of them stood out and provided some of the funniest and most powerful performances. Victoria Mozitis is a star in the making and truly should be working her way up the Turnpike and auditioning in New York City soon. The supporting men’s roles played by Shaun Laurencio (Joey), Christian Claudio (Pablo) and Noel Gomez (TJ) really provided some wonderful humor and unexpected nice Doo-Wop moments and Richard Curcio (Monsignor O’Hara) provided some excellent comedic timing and one liners that remind you of the old throwback of William Christopher’s Father Frank Mulcahy from M.A.S.H.
John Stephan’s direction/choreography of this large show was wonderful. The smart use of making simple large set pieces actually made the production feel small an intimate at times but then still had the large production numbers in that grand Broadway style. You could also see that Mr. Stephan took some ambitious choreography with and the ensemble, (especially the nuns) were definitely challenged but you could see had great joy in the challenge. Kudos should go out to Mary Boner for large set pieces giving us that grand Catholic church style and lighting design by Caitlin Du Bois that enhanced that set. The vocals were well directed by Walter Webster, with some great moments of harmonies and solos throughout the show.
3 out of 4 Mother Superiors
Spencer Lau is a fourteen-year public school teacher, producer, music education advocate, clinician, writer and musical theater director. He can also be followed on Twitter (@njdlau)