Praise the singing and dancing nuns rising to papal proportions in Landmark Community Theatre’s “Sister Act” at the Thomaston Opera House.
Sasha Brown preached the gospel of soulful music as the “fierce” and “wayward” Deloris Van Cartier, the role made famous by Whoopi Goldberg in the 1992 movie. The aspiring singer finds herself thrown into the most unlikely of places, a local Philadelphia convent, and trades in her right, fashionable and flashy clothes for a nun’s habit and robes to disguise herself as the police help her hide from her ex-lover, married mobster club owner Curtis (Daniel Fedrick), who she witnessed commit murder.
At first she butts heads with Mother Superior (Priscilla Squires) and makes waves at the church. But her expertise in music and Motown-esque pizzaz revives a seemingly tone-deaf choir in convent on the verge of shutting its doors and through hip and holy melodies puts the nunnery in the spotlight and turns things around. The only problem with that is that it not only prompts an invitation to perform for the pope, but it also draws the attention of Curtis and his minions.
Brown is most impressive with her riffs and powerful pipes. Becky Sawicki showed character arch with taking her meek, innocent and sometimes inaudible Sister Mary Robert to a joyful, bright and confident singer and person.Kathy Cook was bold in her voice and comic knack as one of the sisters secretly yearning for a little bit of rebellion.
Although intimidating, Fedrick, had a lovely voice, juxtaposed personality-wise by his goofball nephew TJ (Kyle Davis), whose singing was like silk, as was Moses Beckett’s as “Sweaty” Eddie. Beckett’s shy, sensitive, honest and nerdy Eddie blended the right touch of comedy and sincerity to elevate him into the unlikely yet adorable leading man, touching our hearts. Adorkable.
Even if you didn’t like the strict Mother Superior at first as a seeming nemesis to Deloris, you can’t help but love Squiers’ operatic voice, which is especially livened and featured when she has a change of heart about Deloris in the end and chooses to help the most unexpected ally and latch on to the soul train.
Major props to Steve Sorriero who stepped in to learn the role of Monsignor O’Hara days a couple days before opening night when needed after a casting complication. I didn’t even know that until after, so his short preparation time went unnoticed and he put forth a strong and endearing Monsignor.
Sometimes the music and mic volume overpowered the lyrics of any given singer so it was sometimes hard to hear what they were saying in the songs. However, I enjoyed the full and flavorful orchestra blasting cascading melodies and harmonies through the rafters, playing in a nook above the stage out of sight.
Deloris’s transformation of tradition church choral hymns into a pop-infused musical wave of energy drives lively dance numbers ornamented with shiny costume enhancements to the otherwise plain nun’s habits. Carol Koumbaros is responsible for making these nuns fashionable! Brown’s silver sparkly nun’s habit toward the end was very eye-catching!
The show had a robust ensemble, with many actors double cast in smaller parts and everybody added something to the performance.
Diwan Glass (Joey) and Daniel Beaudoin (Pablo) played Curtis’s other henchmen with a teddy bear layer. Susie Hackel played the spacey, well-intentioned Sister Mary Lazarus and Jane Coughlin was tough but kind as Sister Mary Theresa. Chrissy Flynn played Sister Mary Martin-Of-Tours. Stephanie Varanelli Miles played the welcoming Philly cheesesteak and beer-serving waitress, also backing Brown alongside Chelsea Pollard (Tina) a nightclub act in the beginning. Shelby Davis takes on roles as a taxi driver, altar boy, fantasy dancer and homeless person and Jakob Buckley was hilarious as the drag queen mistaken for Deloris, also playing a cop, altar boy, fantasy dancer and homeless person. Cat Gomez played a bar patron, hooker and nun and Lynn D’Ambrosi plays another bar patron but shines in expression and vocals in her role as one of the nuns and sparkles as a fantasy dancer.
Denise Howard, Miles, Patti Rice, Debbie Videtto, Patti Paganucci, Bev Delventhal-Sali, Rhiannon Carta, Laureen Monge, Pollard and Loretta Fedrick also play nuns.
Carta and Miles also play fantasy dancers and homeless people.
The mood on stage effervesced into the audience, with many bopping in their seats, singing along, laughing loudly or in one case, calling for another song!
One of the reasons this production of “Sister Act” was so special was because it was under the leadership of Director Marissa Follo Perry, who starred in the original Broadway cast of “Sister Act.” She is otherwise best known for her role as Tracy Turnblad on Broadway.
“Building ‘Sister Act’ on Broadway from the ground up was one of the highlights of my career as an actress. However, with each project I direct I fall more and more in love with being on the other side of the ‘fourth wall.’ Watching this cast come together to build THEIR version of ‘Sister Act’ has made my first experience here at Landmark truly unforgettable,” Perry said in her director’s note in the playbill.
Jeffrey Dunn produced the show, Dan Ringuette music directed, John Carter choreographed, Keith Winager designed the set, Alex Dunn did the lighting, and Jim Luurtsema and Gary Kingsbury were in charge of sound design.
The stage crew did a phenomenal job at maneuvering smooth set transitions between scenes.
To find out more information about future Landmark Community Theatre productions, visit http://www.landmarkcommunitytheatre.org.