The Nuns Are Raising Their Voices At WBT
Review Of Sister ActPublished: Monday, April 23, 2018 By: Nancy Sasso Janis Source: PATCH
The 205th production at the Westchester Broadway Theatre is the fun and glitzy "Sister Act: A Divine Musical Comedy.' The composer of the '70s style music was Alan Menken with lyrics by Glenn Slater. The original book was by Cheri and Bill Steinkellner, and additional book material was added by Douglas Carter Beane.
In the WBT program booklet, Pia Haas reminds us of the history of this piece. While this musical version is based upon the Touchstone motion picture of the same name, Mr. Menken did not feel that the memorable original songs from the film would fit in a musical theatre context. He, therefore, wrote a brand new score from a different angle; as a result, the setting was changed from San Francisco and Reno in the nineties to gritty Philadelphia in the seventies.
For the West End run, a 24-year-old Patina Miller was cast as Deloris and Whoopi Goldberg joined the cast as the Mother Superior for a limited run. When the show moved to Broadway after many revisions, Ms. Miller reprised her role in her Broadway debut, co-starring with Victoria Clark. Unlike the movie, this stage version is a story of love and self-discovery; underlying themes are following your dreams and finding a source of strength in one's faith.
So if you go to see this sparkling production of 'Sister Act' at WBT, just don't expect a remake of the original. That is not to say that there is not much to love about this take on the story of Deloris Van Cartier. Zuri Washington, a Bronx native, makes her WBT debut in one of her favorite roles; this talented singer has played Danielle in the National Tour of 'Bring It On: The Musical' and has played the role of Felicia Farrell in the National Tour of 'Memphis.' Equally as impressive is Mary Jo McConnell as the staid Mother Superior. This actor has been part of the National Tours of 'Phantom,' 'Beauty and the Beast' as Mrs. Potts, 'All Shook Up' and 'Sister Act.'
Philip Michael Baskerville, a veteran of the first National Tour of 'Ragtime,' takes on the role of the evil Curtis Jackson in his WBT debut. Jayson Elliott is a hoot as his goon Joey, last seen as the Cowardly Lion in 'The Wizard of Oz' and Nicely Nicely in 'Guys and Dolls.'
Lani Corson, a Syracuse University grad, makes her WBT debut as the blossoming young postulate Sr. Mary Robert. Katelyn Lauria is bubbly in the role of Sr. Mary Patrick and Sandy Rosenberg (Flo Manero in 'Saturday Night Fever') has fun as Sr. Mary Lazarus.
Ken Jennings, last seen as the Wizard in 'Oz' at WBT, is the sprite, Monsignor O'Hara. Corben Williams from Alaska appears as TJ and Danny Wildred is loveable in the role of "Sweaty" Eddie Souther.
The talented and hard-working ensemble members include nuns Melanie Burg, Joanna Noelle Caruso, Hannah Eakin, Stefanie Sable, Jessi St. George, T. Shyvonne Steward, and Karen Webb. The altar boys were played by Kevin Curtis, Sincee J. Daniels, Hector Flores Jr, and Jose Plaza (in CT: Mr. Hutt in 'ZM' at Goodspeed, 'Elephant and Piggie: We're in a Play' at Playhouse on Park.)
Donna Drake, a teacher at Pace University, is the director/choreographer of 'Sister Act.' Her credits include the children's show John Tartaglia's 'Imaginocean' and the television show 'Disney's Johnny and the Sprite' where my cousin Tim Lagasse was the man behind the character Basil.
The seven live musicians behind the scenes sounded great as always under the direction of Bob Bray. Steve Loftus designed the set that went from the convent to dive bar to church easily. The costumes of Heather Carey got progressively more sparkly as the show went on and worked nicely. Kudos to the hair/wig designer Gerald Kelly. I thought that parts of the matinee I attended were a bit too loud for the space, but thankfully it wasn't for the entire show.