SISTER ACTMusic by Alan Menken
Lyrics by Glenn Slater
Book by Cheri Steinkellner and Bill Steinkellner
Additional Book Material by Douglas Carter Beane
Grand Prairie Arts Council
Director –Eric Criner
Music Director—Larry Miller
Choreography – Danny Vanegas
Scenic Designer—Matt Betz
Lighting Designer—Studio 147
Delores Van Cartier—Antonette Hunt
Mother Superior—Nancy Bartke
Sister Mary Robert—Paige Walker
Sister Mary Patrick—Anicia D. Brown
Sister Mary Lazarus—Jerry Doran
Sister Mary Theresa—Victoria Hess
Sister Mary Martin of Tours/Hooker—Reagan Moss
Monsignor O’Hara—Fred Patterson
Curtis—Anthony Maurice Washington
Tina/Nun—Deon Q. Sanders
Michelle/Hooker/Nun/Bar Patron—Lauren Raymond
Ernie/Altar Boy/Cab Driver/Pool Player—Zachary Weiss
Nun/Dance Captain—Taylor Loudermilk
Nun/Bar Patron—Kriston Royal
Cop/Altar Boy/Newscaster/Pool Player—Michael Weiss
Reviewed Performance: 10/7/2018
Reviewed by Genevieve Croft , Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
That being said, I hope no matter what the production that Grand Prairie Arts Council stages (from musicals to plays or classic cinema), you will take the opportunity to take a step back into the past, and visit one of those old-fashioned movie houses, that once dotted the landscape of small town U.S.A.
Based on the 1992 film, starring Whoopi Goldberg, Kathy Najimy and Maggie Smith, “Sister Act” follows nightclub singer Delores Van Cartier, as she longs to be a famous singer. One night as she is leaving the club (owned by her mafia-tied boyfriend, Curtis), Delores witnesses Curtis kill a man. As she flees the scene, and seeks the protection of a local policeman (former schoolmate Eddie), she is pushed into a convent at the local Catholic parish.
Assuming the name Sister Mary Clarence, Van Cartier is shocked to learn she cannot drink, smoke, and suffers the many limitations of the convent, under the judgmental eye of the Mother Superior. Soon, Van Cartier forms a familial bond with her Sisters, and teaches their choir some new and modern ways for vocal performance. Sounds like the perfect formula for a musical!
Director Eric Criner brought together a large ensemble cast of actors who worked well together. I have never had the opportunity to see Sister Act (the musical) before, and I can honestly say that it was something I thoroughly enjoyed. Quite often when writers take on the task of adapting a film to the stage, some of the comedy, or the “magic” of what made the film funny is lost. This is certainly not the case with Sister Act (billed humorously as a “Divine Comedy.”) There was a multitude of talent in the ensemble, and it is evident that Mr. Criner was able to shape and mold this capable cast in a very clever way, and they were able to tell the story of Delores Van Cartier, and her fellow Sisters in the Catholic parish. Set Designer Matt Betz successfully transformed the proscenium stage into the multiple locations in the story. While the main set never changed (drapery was closed to designate different large locations) different items where brought on as each location changed to give a different look. It was impressive to see how such simple things like a confessional or the local bar could totally transform the location. I was very impressed with the church façade that was present throughout scenes in the convent, and the suggestion of stained glass church windows that were suspended above the stage. It provided some nice opportunities for location changes, and allowed transitions between scenes to move seamlessly.
There were some apparent audio issues that plagued the actors during intermittent spots throughout the production. At times, it was difficult to hear the actors, and the music, however, I am confident that these issues will be fixed, as the production moves full-steam ahead into its second weekend.
Pacing was also an issue with this production. It seemed as if Act I drug on extraordinarily long. I cannot decipher if this is because there were fewer songs in Act I, than in Act II (which, for a musical, can be highly unusual-as most songs are in Act I, while the second act provides closure for the characters and the story.) However, if the reaction of the audience is any indication, the pacing will certainly pick up as the production moves into the final set of performances. Audiences around me were roaring with laughter at the antics and misunderstandings of Sister Mary Clarence and the reactions of the Mother Superior.
Eric Criner also served as the costumer for this production. If you know Mr. Criner’s talents as a costumer, you will not be disappointed. Almost instantly, I was transported back to 1978, and the trash disco era in Philadelphia. Although embarrassed to admit, I love the era of Trash Disco. The women’s outfits were wild, showy, and sparkly. I also enjoyed seeing some of the quintessential “tacky” men’s outfits-large bellbottom suit pants, printed blazers, and wide ties. Pair that with the stereotypical nun’s habits, and you have a nice differentiation between two very different groups of individuals. You will be in for fun surprise as the Nuns’ habits slowly start to reflect the changing attitude of the parish, and the influence of Sister Mary Clarence. I don’t want to ruin the element of surprise, but, I can guarantee you it is flashy!
Antonette Hunt was fantastic in the dual role of Delores Van Cartier and Sister Mary Clarence. Hunt gave an enthusiastic performance full of energy, intensity and spirit. Not only did Ms. Hunt deliver with an incredible singing voice, but, she also delivered with her comedic timing and facial expressions. She was larger than life on stage, and took control of every scene with her commanding talents.
Nancy Bartke was phenomenal in the role of the stereotypical and uptight Mother Superior. Ms. Bartke wowed audiences with her tremendous comic timing, animated facial expressions, and fantastic vocal range. Ms. Bartke was full of energy, and enthusiasm, and gave audiences an honest depiction of the role of a Mother Superior. It was enjoyable to see her reactions with the unconventional behavior of Delores at the convent. I also thought her performance was very genuine-her character certainly took audiences on a journey from the beginning to the end of the story. Brava, Ms. Bartke. Another standout Anicia D. Brown in the role of Sister Mary Patrick. Ms. Brown provided everything that I would expect for the role originally played by Kathy Najimy-a tough act to follow, I’m sure. Through comedic delivery, a likeable on-stage persona and an incredible vocal range, Ms. Brown brought an element of humor and light-heartedness to the role. Ms. Brown was a wonderful foil to less than perfect Sister Mary Clarence.
Other standout performers included Anthony Maurice Washington as club-owner and Mafia man Curtis, and Bennie Adkins as “Sweaty” Eddie, the policeman responsible for protecting Delores. In such a female dominated show, Mr. Washington and Mr. Adkins certainly held their own. Both were featured in two fantastic musical numbers similar to Barry White and Marvin Gaye, which really stood out. They both brought the house down with White and Gaye’s signature crooning styles, while adding the much appreciated dose of humor through facial expressions and dance. I certainly think that these two actors dominated these two scenes, and were able to hold their own next to a plethora of females in the company.
This production of Sister Act is definitely worth seeing. The attention to detail evident in all aspects of this production makes for a pleasant experience at the theatre. I would caution you, however, this production has moments of violence and adult humor. It is certainly for mature audiences. If you are looking for a light musical comedy, look no further than Sister Act, produced by the Grand Prairie Arts Council-an organization dedicated to keeping the alive in Grand Prairie, Texas.
Grand Prairie Arts Council
Uptown Theater Grand Prairie
120 East Main Street
Grand Prairie, Texas 75050
Plays through Oct. 14.
Friday, Oct 12 at 8:00 pm
Saturday, Oct. 13 at 2:00 pm and 8:00 pm
Sunday, Oct. 14 at 2:00 pm
Ticket prices range from $15-$25, depending on row.
For groups of 10 or more, please call the box office for rates & reservations.
For information and to purchase tickets, go to www. artsgp.org or call: 972-237-8786.