OFF BEAT

OFFBEAT: 'Sister Act' shines bright with faith and musical fun

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2012-11-16T00:00:00Z OFFBEAT: 'Sister Act' shines bright with faith and musical funPhilip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

It's been two decades since Whoopi Goldberg got in the habit of "Sister Act," the 1992 film hit starring her as a lounge singer-turned-key witness for a court trial, hiding as a nun in a convent for safety.

Twenty years later, it's still a funny habit for audiences.

Broadway In Chicago and producers Goldberg, Stage Entertainment and Troika Entertainment are having fun bringing this now Broadway musical story out on national tour and starring Chicago actress Hollis Resnik as Mother Superior opposite Ta'Rea Campbell as Deloris Van Cartier, the role played by Goldberg in the film.

"Sister Act" is playing a Chicago holiday run now through Dec. 2 at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 East Congress Parkway.

Campbell has a great stage voice and easily slips into the starring role. And she meet her match for talent with Resnik assuming the identity of Mother Superior.

The sets are minimal, which allows the focus to be on the singing and funny line exchanges.

Kingsley Leggs, who starred on Broadway in "Sister Act" and "The Color Purple," plays mob man Curtis Jackson in perfect form, and E. Clayton Cornelious pays homage to shaky gun late legend Don Knotts as cop Eddie Souther.

Also direct from the Broadway run, Lael Van Keuren plays the young nun Mary Robert.

One of my funny favorites is Florrie Bagel as the robust and mischievous Sister Mary Patrick and Diane J. Findlay gets her share of funny lines as established nun Mary Lazarus.

"Sister Act" features an original score with music by multi-Oscar, Grammy, Tony and Golden Globe award-winning composer Alan Menken and lyrics by Tony and Academy Award-nominee Glenn Slater and a book by multi-Emmy Award winners Cheri and Bill Steinkellner with additional book material Douglas Carter Beane.

Prior to attending Wednesday's press opening, I had forgotten much of the "Sister Act" story details, such as the lead character's impact on the confidence of the nuns and their efforts to save an inner city church. It's a religious romp of faithful fun.

The cast is heaven-sent, especially with Resnik's comic timing and flawless vocal talent. It's full praise for the large musical numbers like "Take Me to Heaven" and "Sister Act," in addition to solo numbers like Resnik's "Haven't Got a Prayer."

The performance is two and half hours, with one 15-minute intermission. There are a couple reprise numbers in Act II by the Curtis and Sister Mary Robert characters that seem unnecessary.

I would rather that time used to allow some of the other nuns and their personalities to be showcased. The original movie had the wonderful talents of actresses like Maggie Smith, Kathy Najimy and the late, great Mary Wickes as swinging sisters with more time in the spotlight. This stage cast of sisters is just as talented, and deserve a few more moments to shine, even when they aren't wearing their sequined habits.

Tickets are $28-$103. FYI: (800) 775‐2000 or BroadwayInChicago.com or sisteractbroadway.com.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at philip.potempa@nwi.com or (219) 852-4327.

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