SISTER ACTMusic by Alan Menken, Lyrics by Glenn Slater
Book by Cheri and Bill Steinkellner
Artisan Center Theater
Directed by Natalie Burkhart
Music Director – Richard Gwozdz
Choreographer – Amy Jones
Set Design – Wendy Searcy-Woode
Light Design – Daniel Orges
Costume Design – Carla Wicks
Stage Manager – Phyllis Huaute
Artisan Center Theatre
Deloris Van Cartier – Genine Ware/Hailey Good*
Mother Superior – Judi Conger*/Meredith Jeppson
Sister Mary Robert – Abby Sherrill/Mary Ridenour*
Sister Mary Patrick – Meg Steffens/Courtney Mitchell*
Sister Mary Lazarus – Jackie Holt/Valandia Willis*
Sister Mary Martin-of-Tours – Tamera Miller*
Sister Mary Theresa – Louise Childs/Gwinevere Nelson*
Msgr. O'Hara – Fred Patterson/Kevin Carter*
Eddie – Sheridan Keyton*
Curtis – Aaron Knight*
TJ – Harrison Cawood/Everett Shirley*
Joey – Kirk Corley/Michael Hasty*
Pablo – Fabian Cortina*/Javier Casanova
Ernie – Daniel Orges*/Tevin Cates
Gina Gwozdz/Mikayla Medford/Hannah Simpson/Mason Vales/Tamara Hayes/Christianne Miller/Denise Jasper/Angelina Stephens/Delaney Brown*/Meredith Tompkins*/Lillian Rivas*/Lane Norris*/Marcia Diebel*/Laura Parks*/Carla Wicks*+/Piper Daniel*
*At the reviewed performance
+Understudy for Sister Mary Martin-of-Tours
Reviewed Performance: 8/29/2017
Reviewed by Richard P. Buswold, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The Alan Menken score is classic Menken and the lyrics are well put. Menken and Slater slide easily from Motown, to soul and funk, to disco with a nod to Barry White with Eddie's (Sheridan Keyton) emotional "I Could Be That Guy". The production numbers, "Spread the Love Around" and "Raise Your Voice" were just noisy. It did not help the jumbled-up mess of the songs that the canned track for this performance was way too hot and overpowered the vocals of most of the actors. I just can't really remember any particular tune except "Raise Your Voice" which is actually very similar to a lot of Menken tunes and the only lyric I remembered the next day was Sister Mary Robert's lament in the second act, "The Life I never Had". Menken and Slater were nominated for Tonys for their work on this and yes, the musical is lyrical and powerful and pleasant but it's just not as good as Newsies or Little Shop or other Menken productions...
But that being said, the performances of the leads were outstanding. Hailey Good as Deloris started out slow with a shaky "audition" piece and her follow-up song, "Fabulous Baby", but once into the show her voice commanded the stage and her soul shined through. This might have been purposeful as her talent became better as she let go of herself and became more in tune with her spirituality and human condition while living in the convent. Sister Mary Robert, most believably portrayed by Mary Ridenour, was exactly what she was in the movie. A pint sized young lady with a powerhouse set of pipes. She had the most moving piece with "The Life I Never Had" and garnered thunderous applause for it.
The surprise of the night for me was Sheridan Keyton as Eddie Souther. He looks a bit young to be a police detective. In fact, he reminded me of Kenan Thompson from the Kenan&Kel days on Nickelodeon but he does justice to the roll with just enough humor and empathy to make his performance a delight. Speaking of delight, his first act solo, "I Could Be That Guy" was exquisitely sung and staged wonderfully. I believe it was the standout number in the show. His fantasy costume changes were done to perfection and just fun to watch. Brava to Carla Wicks for that sequence.
Carla actually did well with most of the costumes. The nun's habits were spot on, the showgirl's and dancer's costumes were straight up 70s disco and even the mundane outfits worn by Curtis Jackson (Aaron Knight) and his henchmen were a 70s vibe unto themselves. The one thing that really bothered me, and I mean it REALLY bothered me, is that the Monsignor, slightly overplayed by Kevin Carter, was dressed in a choir robe and an inappropriate stole for Mass. Where were his vestments? A Msgr. Would NEVER celebrate Mass in something like that unless he was helping a Bishop or Cardinal, and even then, he would still most likely wear vestments. How can you be so accurate with the rest of the cast and drop the ball so badly on one character?
The one thing I always take great delight in with Artisan Center Theatre are the sets. Being a theatre-in-the-round, it affords the opportunity to totally immerse the audience in this fantasy world they will live in for the next 2.5 hours. Wendy Searcy-Woode did not disappoint. Although there are not a lot of particular sets in this show, what she created was a visual symphony that could adjust as the mind needed it to for the different scenes. I will warn you, you might leave with glitter on your person. Seriously, it looks as if a glitter grenade went off in the theatre. Make that a glitter A-Bomb. So. Much. Glitter.
Sister Act is a good show made better by the actors on stage. The performances are solid, but the direction is uninteresting and the choreography is at times lackadaisical, but the show is enjoyable overall. If you want to see new musicals instead of the 893rd redo of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Oklahoma", I definitely think you should see this show.
Mon, Tue, and Thurs, Fri & Sat @ 7:30: PM and Sat @ 3: PM
For more information or to purchase tickets go to:
http://www.artisanct.com or call 817-284-1200