Theatre Mirror Reviews - "SISTER ACT"

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Note: Entire Contents Copyright 2016 by Tony Annicone


Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Theatre by the Sea's last musical of their 83rd season is "Sister Act", the international smash hit musical based on the mega-hit, 1992 film that starred Whoppi Goldberg. Bill Hanney spares no expense in bringing the highest quality productions to this historic theatre and this one is another feather in his cap. When disco diva, Deloris Van Cartier witnesses a murder, she is put in protective custody in one place that cops think she can't be found: a convent. Disguised as a nun, she finds herself at odds with both the rigid lifestyle and the uptight Mother Superior. Using her unique talents to inspire the choir, Deloris breathes new life into the church, but in doing so, blows her cover. Soon it is nun-on-the-run time but she finds salvation in the heavenly power of her newly found sisterhood. This musical hit contains a vast array of musical styles from Motown, soul and funk to great big disco anthems and Barry White inspired musical comedy. Director/choreographer Kevin Hill always does a phenomenal job with his musicals and "Sister Act" is no exception to that rule. He obtains high energy and topnotch quality from his whole cast with superb dances and expert insight into these comic characters. He first directed the hit show at TBTS back in 2010 of "Hello, Dolly" and this one is the hit of this season.The terrific musical direction is by Jesse Warkentin who taught the infectious and melodic score to this talented cast. Jesse also plays lead keyboards and conducts a seven piece orchestra. The fantastic sets are by scenic designer Kyle Dixon while the multitude of gorgeous costumes are by David Costa-Cabral. All their combined efforts create a masterpiece of musical theatre that had the opening night audience on their feet cheering the talent of all these individuals. The orchestrations are by Doug Besterman who worked as music director at TBTS back in 1987.

Leading this cast is Jeanette Bayardelle. She delivers a tour de force performance as this captivating, enchanting and energetic character. Jeanette also has a powerful voice which blows the roof off the theater. She and her two back up singers start this musical off with a bang with "Take Me to Heaven" which later becomes a show stopping nun's choir song and their second number is "Fabulous Baby" where she sings what a big star she is going to be. Her group songs include It's Good to Be a Nun" which is done tongue in cheek and "Raise Your Voices", where she finally teaches the nuns how to sing properly and energizes the first act. Other standout show stopping songs include "Sunday Morning Fever", "Bless Our Show" and the poignant, heartfelt "Sister Act" where Jeanette captures the hearts of the audience with her awesome voice and heart as this incredible character. Brava! Run do not walk to the box office to see this must see show of the summer season.

Another fabulous performer is the gorgeous, statuesque Ellen Harvey as the Mother Superior. She brings the house down with her solos, "Here Within Our Walls" where she tells Deloris the rules and regulations of the convent. Her other powerhouse number is "Haven't Got a Prayer" and the mother superior is determined to protect her nuns from the evils of the outside world. Ellen commands the stage as this authority figure in every scene she is in. The standout moment of the show comes when Mother Superior and Deloris finally form a truce as they realize that they aren't that much different after all. Ellen's soprano voice is perfection and you could listen to her sing all day long. The three most comic nuns in this show are Tina Johnson as Sister Mary Lazarus, Lael Van Keuren as Sister Mary Robert and Jennie Boone as Sister Mary Patrick. They are hilarious and magnificent in these roles. Tina is a hoot as the curmudgeon nun who sings a rap section of "Bless Our Show" and has terrific one liners. Lael stops the show with her high octane number "The Life I Never Led" which she sings to Deloris. This is a poignant number as she pours her heart out to her friend and she finally stands up to the Mother Superior to protect Deloris near the end of the show. She, Tina and Jennie are marvelous as with their hilarious one liners and wise cracks. Sister Mary Robert finally stands up for herself after a pep talk from Deloris. Jennie is sheer perfection as Sister Mary Patrick. She plays this part as well as Kathy Najimy did in the movie. Another funny nun is Ellen Peterson as Sister Martin of Tours who is a bit out there and utters did the smoke appear for the election of a new pope which won many laughs. She also speaks Spanish to one of the thugs and knocks him on his ass. The entire nuns chorus knocks your socks off with their vocal prowess. The choral sound of their voices is definitely worth the price of admission.

Playing the cop who eventually falls for Deloris is Jared Dixon as Eddie. He displays his voice in "I Could Be That Guy" when he discovers he has feelings for this gal. He changes from cop clothes to disco clothes back to cop outfit during his number. He plays this sympathetic guy who gives Deloris tough love at first before he falls head over heels in love with her. The villain of the show, Curtis is excellently played by Philip Michael Baskerville. As Curtis, Philip displays his powerful voice with his three thugs in "When I Find My Baby" about how they are going kill her with the hoodlums as back up singers. The three thugs are fabulously played by Avionce Hoyle as TJ, Brent Bateman as Joey and Juan Caballer as Pablo. These three hoods sing the hilarious "Lady in the Long Black Dress" as they try to come up with a plan to capture her. This song stops the show with hilarity. These guys are reminiscent of the antics of the three stooges with their wild and crazy antics. Each of them sings to the song to a lady in the audience which wins them many laughs all the way. They finally get their comeuppance from the nuns. A word of praise to the entire cast on their brilliant and fabulous dancing and singing prowess. So for the sleeper hit of the summer, be sure to catch "Sister Act" at Theatre by the Sea. This is my 44th year of attending shows here and this musical will have you cheering, dancing and singing in the aisles. So be sure to catch Deloris before she and her nuns sing and dance their way out of town. Tell them Tony sent you. Bill Hanney's 84th season line up is "Beehive", "The Music Man", "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Producers" which will be his tenth anniversary season of running this historic and beloved theatre.

SISTER ACT (17 August to 4 September)
Theatre by the Sea, 364 Cards Pond Road, Matunuck, RI
1(401)782-8587 or

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